Justin Verlander struggled Tuesday against the Rays in Game 4 of the American League Division Series on just three days of rest, but the Astros ace insists the issue was a bad slider.
"I didn't know what to expect, and I wasn't taking anything into it. Not expecting anything. I was expecting to be normal," Verlander told reporters (via ESPN) after the 4-1 loss. "The low-hanging fruit is to sit there and say this was short rest and that's the reason why. I don't think so. I felt good, body felt good physically. I just didn't execute the way I needed to.
"Really the slider was the worst it's been all year. I needed something to go our way, and when I made mistakes, they really capitalized on them with runners on base. It killed us."
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Verlander, 36, lasted only 3 2/3 innings, giving up all four earned runs — three in the first — on seven hits while striking out five and walking three on 84 pitches (52 strikes).
He was named the Game 4 starter after Houston's 10-3 loss Monday. While Verlander hadn't ever had that quick of a turnaround in his 15-year career after a full-length start, he reportedly pushed for the Astros to give him the ball after Zack Greinke took the loss in Game 3.
"In the postseason, you ask somebody to do something that's not normal, it's always a little nerve-wracking," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "But he felt great, and he made a lot of really good pitches and got a lot of swings and misses."
Coming off Friday's performance in which he threw seven shutout innings against the Rays in Game 1, Verlander was pulled in the fourth after walking Ji-Man Choi.
"Bad slider. Inconsistent control," Verlander added. "I felt like the velocity was there, but the control wasn't and the slider wasn't. Mix that in with a good approach [from the Rays] in the first.
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"Obviously not the way you would script it. It sucks."
The deciding Game 5 set for 7:07 p.m. ET in Houston (FS1).