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Charlie Morton delivers, Zack Greinke doesn’t as Rays beat Astros to force Game 4

Charlie Morton

Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Charlie Morton (50) throws during the first inning of Game 3 of a baseball American League Division Series against the Houston Astros, Monday, Oct. 7, 2019, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara, Pool)


The Astros aces had been the story of this series before today, with Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole shutting down the Rays’ bats in Games 1 and 2. Astros starter Zack Greinke would be the unquestioned ace on most pitching staffs, but he’s third fiddle for Houston. Today he actually pitched like a third starter -- maybe one for a non-contender -- as the Tampa Bay Rays rocked him for three homers and then continued to pile on for an easy 10-3 win to force a Game 4 in their ALDS matchup with the Astros.

Greinke was staked to a 1-0 lead before he even threw a pitch thanks to a first inning José Altuve home run and he cruised through the first frame against the Rays, needing only nine pitches to do it. That changed in the second, however, when Avisaíl García singled, Greinke hit Travis d’Arnaud with a pitch to put two on and then Kevin Kiermaier pounded on a Greinke changeup with catlike quickness and served it over the right center field fence for a three-run jack to put the Rays up 3-1.

Tampa Bay stayed locked in on Greinke in the bottom of the third when Ji-Man Choi went deep to make it 4-1. Brandon Lowe kept it going, leading off the fourth inning with yet another dinger to make it 5-1. It was the first game since Opening Day with the Diamondbacks in which Greinke had allowed more than two longballs. Today was certainly not his day. A.J. Hinch left Greinke in a bit longer and he walked Willy Adames and that was it for him.

Héctor Rondón came on in relief, gave up a single and was pulled for Wade Miley who promptly gave up an RBI double, and RBI single, with the runs charged to Greinke and Rondón, respectively, to make it 8-1 to end the eighth. Six runs in all were charged to Greinke in three and two-thirds innings of work.

Greinke’s counterpart Charlie Morton had no such trouble with the usually formidable Astros lineup. He pitched five innings with the only damage being that first inning Altuve homer. He struck out nine against two walks and three hits in that time while flashing some filthy, filthy stuff:

After Morton left Chaz Roe allowed Houston to rally for two in the sixth to make it 8-3 but the Rays got one back with their fourth homer of the afternoon -- courtesy of Willy Adames -- in the bottom of the sixth. A Travis d’Arnaud sac fly in the seventh gave the Rays double digits and 10-3 is where the game would wind up when it was all said and done.

When this day began we had a chance -- not a great chance, but a chance -- of all four Division Series ending on this day and giving us no baseball until Friday. The Rays win guarantees that there will be a game tomorrow, however, as Houston will try once again to put Tampa Bay away.

Follow @craigcalcaterra