In less than 36 hours, the Tampa Bay Rays will attempt to pull off one of the most impressive comebacks in recent memory and secure one of the greatest moments in franchise history, with a potential ALDS victory over the historically great (and regardless of the outcome of the rest of the season, don’t let anyone fool you into thinking these Astros are anything other than historically great) Houston Astros.
To do so, they’ll have to defeat Gerrit Cole, a mighty tall request these days. Cole has been absolutely bonkers the past few months, and he threw one of the best postseason starts in recent memory when the two faced off in Game Two. As such, the Rays will almost certainly have to rely on winning a close, low-scoring game if they want to defeat Cole and the `Stros. Luckily for the Rays, that’s been their MO all season, as their crew of Run Suppression Supremacists was the best in the league, and one of the best all around pitching staffs in recent memory.
Good thing for the Rays, it’s going to be all hands on deck for this Game Five approach, but that also means the possibilities are just about endless. So let’s attempt to tackle some of the possible scenarios when it comes to how Kevin Cash and the Rays pitching staff plan on limiting the Astros on Thursday.
The Best Case Scenario
Innings 1-4: Tyler Glasnow
Innings 5-6: Blake Snell
Inning 7-8: Nick Anderson
Inning 9: Charlie Morton
Even if Glasnow if cooking on Thursday, it’s hard to imagine him getting more than two times through the lineup. In Game Two, Glasnow looked unhittable the first two times around, but of course, it was the top of the order that third time through that jumped him, giving him the only two runs allowed for the game. If Glasnow can get the Rays started with four shutout frames, that’ll be just the start they need.
After that, turning it over to Blake Snell for one time through the lineup seems like a distinct possibility, even given that Snell closed out Game Four. Tuesday was his natural bullpen day anyways, so it’s not as if he needs to reset his schedule. I wouldn’t want to see him face any batters twice, as he doesn’t seem quite 100 percent still, but one time through would be perfect for last year’s Cy Young winner.
Innings seven and eight is where you may slightly disagree with me. Anderson hasn’t often been used for more than an inning, and he threw 22 on Tuesday, but I’ll be damned if I’m not using Anderson for as much as he’s got in this final game of the series. The man has 47 strikeouts to two walks in a Rays uniform. Like, c’mon.
And finally, I’m turning it over to Morton to close it out. He did it in Game Seven of the 2017 World Series, and there’s not a man in the pen I’d trust more than Morton to close out the game if we have a lead (remember, this is the Best Case Scenario). He threw 93 pitches on Monday, but Thursday will be his normal bullpen day anyways. This is why the Rays shelled out the biggest contract in team history for this dude. Just for this moment.
The Worst Case Scenario
Inning 1: Tyler Glasnow
Innings 2-3: Blake Snell
Inning 4: Yonny Chirinos
Inning 5: Brendan McKay
Inning 6: Nick Anderson
Inning 7: Ryan Yarbrough
Inning 8: Chaz Roe
OK, this is just a general outline because in the worst case scenario, the Astros jump on Glasnow early and force the Rays hand. It’s obvious, but look how much more this scenario forces the Rays hand. Ideally, Roe and Yarbs don’t see the field today. I love them, but if they do, it’s likely a sign that something has gone wrong. Unless...
The Truly All Hands on Deck Scenario
Inning 1-2: Tyler Glasnow
Inning 3: Blake Snell
Inning 4: Emilio Pagan
Inning 5: Colin Poche
Inning 6: Nick Anderson
Inning 7: Brendan McKay
Inning 8: Diego Castillo
Inning 9: Charlie Morton
Eight pitcher, and I trust all of them. Now let’s get just a tiny bit more granular...
The Mix and Match Scenario
So far I’ve been laying these out by inning to keep everyone from losing their sanity, but let’s assume the Rays pitchers have to face the same Astros lineup they did in Game Four, and, if they’re going to compete, they probably can’t have them going much mroe than four times through the order. In order to face the `Stros lineup four times over, I think, by out, this would be the true mix and match breakdown:
Game Five Hitter-by-Hitter Pitching Planner
The Most Likely Scenario
To me, that last one looks the most likely, with the potential for Snell, Anderson, and Morton having slightly shorter outings, but with Pagan and Poche as the backup plans there. However it ends up playing out, you can be assured that Cash and his crew are going to be put the test mightily on Thursday.
What do y’all think is the best/most likely way things play out pitching wise on Thursday?