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Tuesday July 7th, 2020 9:15PM

LEADING OFF: Verlander on short rest, both NLDS go to Game 5

By The Associated Press
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A look at what's happening around the majors today:

RESTED ENOUGH

Justin Verlander will start on three days of rest as the Astros try to put away the Rays in Game 4 of their AL Division Series at Tampa Bay. It will be Verlander's second career start on short rest — the other came after a one-inning, rain-shortened appearance in the 2011 ALDS. Houston won the first two games of the series with a pair of dominant pitching performances from Verlander and Gerrit Cole, who combined to limit the Rays to one unearned run and five hits over 14 2/3 innings. Houston's other pitchers have allowed 12 earned runs in 11 1/3 innings, an ERA of 9.53.

"The thought process is five-game series are pretty crazy and we've got to win. Never know what can happen," Verlander said after the Astros' 10-3 loss in Game 3 on Monday. "You can't put all your eggs in one basket and say if we lose tomorrow, we've got Justin and Gerrit (Cole) for Game 5. It's a crazy game."

Tampa Bay will use Diego Castillo as an opener, and manager Kevin Cash said he'll play matchups with his bullpen after that.

GOING THE DISTANCE

The Nationals and Dodgers get a travel day and go coast to coast again ahead of their win-or-go-home Game 5 in the NL Division Series. Washington will send 18-game winner Stephen Strasburg to the mound against Walker Buehler in a marquee matchup Wednesday at Los Angeles.

"If I could bet, I'd bet on him," Nationals outfielder Adam Eaton said about Strasburg. "To have him healthy and ready to go in that situation only boosts our confidence."

Max Scherzer pitched seven masterful innings and Ryan Zimmerman hit a three-run homer Monday night as the wild-card Nationals staved off elimination with a 6-1 victory at home over the Dodgers, tying the best-of-five NLDS at two games apiece.

BIG BIRD

The Cardinals and Braves are off before Wednesday's decisive Game 5 in Atlanta. Yadier Molina rallied St. Louis in Game 4, poking a tying single in the eighth inning and lifting a sacrifice fly to end it in the 10th. Molina slung his bat far into the outfield after his winning swing, and the crowd at Busch Stadium roared with the longtime heart of the franchise. Molina has 10 tying or go-ahead RBIs in his postseason career, tied with Sandy Alomar, Yogi Berra and Johnny Bench for most by a catcher.

"I like those moments," Molina said.

St. Louis will have ace Jack Flaherty on the mound Wednesday, and the Braves will go with Mike Foltynewicz.

MOVING ON

After finishing a three-game sweep of the Twins with a 5-1 victory at Minnesota on Monday night, Gleyber Torres and the New York Yankees head home waiting to find out whether they'll play Houston or Tampa Bay in the AL Championship Series. That best-of-seven playoff begins Saturday, so the AL East champs get four days off to rest up and prepare. If the wild-card Rays come back and upset the Astros, the ALCS would start at Yankee Stadium. If the Astros win the Division Series, the ALCS opens in Houston.

EMPTY SEATS

Three of four playoff games failed to sell out Monday, leaving lots of empty seats at Tampa Bay, St. Louis and Washington. Sub-capacity crowds have become an expectation at Tropicana Field — even in October — but they were more striking elsewhere. The Cardinals, whose fans tout themselves as the best in baseball, hosted the Braves in front of 42,203 supporters, about 2,000 fewer than Busch Stadium's listed capacity. Meanwhile, entire sections in the upper deck were nearly empty as Max Scherzer pitched for Washington against the Dodgers. Attendance during the regular season fell 1.7% this year for its fourth straight decline.

___

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