Willy Adames homered and made a sensational relay throw from shortstop, Tommy Pham also went deep and the Tampa Bay Rays chased Justin Verlander early in beating the Houston Astros 4-1 Tuesday night to even their AL Division Series at two games apiece.
Ryan Yarbrough and five other pitchers combined on a six-hitter for Tampa Bay. Cy Young Award winner Blake Snell came out of the bullpen for his first career relief appearance, holding off Houston in the ninth inning to earn the save.
Verlander, starting on short rest after dominating the wild-card Rays in Game 1, looked uncomfortable on the mound and was pulled in the fourth after giving up four runs.
The best-of-five series shifts back to Houston for a decisive Game 5 on Thursday.
Verlander, whose eight career ALDS victories are a major league record, yielded three runs in the first. Adames homered leading off the fourth to make it 4-0, and the Houston ace didn't make it through the inning.
The Rays helped themselves by playing stellar defense, especially with the Astros threatening to cut into their three-run deficit. Adames and center fielder Kevin Kiermaier executed a perfect relay to nail Jose Altuve trying to score from first on Yordan Alvarez's double that Kiermaier handled cleanly off the wall before turning and throwing to cutoff man Adames. He fired home just in time to get the speedy Altuve.
Ji-Man Choi turned two line drives into unassisted double plays at first base.
Rays opener Diego Castillo was followed by Yarbrough, who worked two scoreless innings to get the win. Nick Anderson handed off to Colin Poche, who gave up an eighth-inning homer to Robinson Chirinos.
Emilio Pagan and Snell finished up for the Rays, who have rebounded from losing the first two games of the series on the road to Verlander and Houston's other headliner, Gerrit Cole.
Altuve drew a one-out walk and Alex Bregman singled to enable the Astros to bring the potential tying run to the plate in the ninth.
Snell, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner who started Game 2, entered and struck out Alvarez before retiring Yuli Gurriel on a sharp grounder up the middle — exactly where the Rays were playing him — to end the game.
Charlie Morton, who helped Houston win the World Series two years ago, began the Rays' comeback by beating his former team 10-3 on Monday.
Needing one victory to advance to the AL Championship Series for the third straight year, the Astros opted to start Verlander on just three days of rest in hopes of closing out the Rays, who have won three elimination games in a week to stay in the running for their first trip to the ALCS since 2008.
Manager AJ Hinch said it was an easy decision to go with Verlander, who was 8-0 in 12 ALDS appearances, including 11 starts, before Tuesday night.
Verlander limited the Rays to one hit over seven scoreless innings in Game 1, and it looked as though Tampa Bay might be in for another long night when the Astros ace fanned Austin Meadows to begin the bottom of the first.
What transpired over the next six batters — beginning with Pham's 408-foot, first-inning shot to left-center that got a yellow flag-waving, boisterous crowd of 32,178 into it — figures to fuel second-guessing of Hinch that'll extend well beyond the end of the series if Houston doesn't return home and win Game 5.
Four of the next five Rays also reached base, building the lead to 3-0 with Travis d'Arnaud hitting a sharp grounder through the hole between third base and shortstop for an RBI single and Joey Wendle lining a double into the right-field corner to drive in another run.
The Astros put runners on first and third before Yordan Alvarez struck out and Yuli Gurriel grounded out. Rays win, 4-1. A deciding Game 5 will be on Thursday at Minute Maid.
Finally, some Astros offense! Robsinson Churinos homered to right center to cut the Rays lead to 4-1.
The Astros went down in order in the top of the inning. Fortunately, so did the Rays.
The sixth inning started well enough. George Springer singled, but was erased when Michael Brantley hit a line drive that first baseman Ji-man Choi snagged and stepped on first base for an unassisted double play. Then Jose Altuve struck out. The Rays had a little traffic in the bottom of the inning, but didn't score. Still 4-0 Rays.
Houston went down in order in the top of the inning. In the bottom of the inning, the Rays had some traffic, but didn't put any runs up. Astros are still down, 4-0.
In the top of the inning, Jose Altuve singled, but was nailed at the plate when he tried to score on a Yordan Alvarez double. Then in the bottom of the inning, Willie Adames went deep to give Tampa Bay a 4-0 lead. Verlander was pulled with two outs in the inning in favor of Josh Jones.
Astros retired in order in the top of the inning. For Tampa, Brandon Lowe hit a lead-off double, but didn't get past third. Astros still trail, 3-0.
Yuli Gurriel drew a one-out walk, but was left there. In the bottom of the inning, Pham singled and Choi walked, but were stranded when Garcia struck out swinging. Still 3-0 Rays.
After a George Springer single to lead off the game, the next three Astros -- Michael Brantley, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman -- all struck out. Then in the bottom of the frame, Tommy Pham took Justin Verlander out of the park to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead. Then Travis D'Arnaud's single brought in Ji-man Choi to extend the lead to 2-0 and Joey Windle doubled in Avisail Garcia. Rays up 3-0.