It seemed like a no brainer...at first. Houston Astros starter Justin Verlander blitzed through the Tampa Bay Rays with minimal effort in Game 1, so of course he would be the natural choice to close them out in Game 4, right?
Wrong. Emphatically wrong. Verlander didn't have his best stuff from the start, as he struggled to locate the zone and hung some meatballs when he did throw a strike, giving up four runs in what eventually ended up a win for the Rays, forcing Game 5 Thursday.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but it's pretty obvious that starting Verlander on short rest, something he doesn't do, was the wrong move from AJ Hinch.
Hinch's blunder actually started way back in Game 3. When Zack Greinke was getting knocked around Tropicana Field by the Rays, Hinch opted for fourth starter Wade Miley to throw almost three innings in relief. This made Miley, who could have easily started Game 4 on usual rest, unavailable.
After burning through Miley in Game 3 and leaving another potential starter in Brad Peacock off the roster all together, Hinch dug his own grave and was forced to start Verlander, on limited notice, and without any of his trademark stuff.
Gerrit Cole starting Game 5 should give the Astros tons of confidence, but that doesn't erase the fact that Game 5 could have been avoided if Hinch hadn't thrown Verlander out at less than 100 percent. Hindsight is 20/20, but why not simply surrender Game 3 and let Miley close out Tampa Bay?