Game 5 of the ALDS was more or less decided by the first 20 pitches thrown by Rays starter Tyler Glasnow. The Astros battered Glasnow for four runs in the bottom of the first inning, which wasn’t totally shocking given how fearsome Houston’s lineup is. What was surprising was how they went about scoring those four runs—they knew what pitches were coming before Glasnow threw them.
The Astros were so dialed in during that inning that even the broadcasters couldn’t help but speculate that Glasnow was tipping his pitches. When Alex Rodriguez broke down those first-inning at-bats in the studio after the game, he made a convincing case that Houston had something on Glasnow:
Glasnow himself eventually took all the suspense out of the situation, admitting to reporters after the game that he was tipping his pitches throughout the inning. Glasnow looked at video footage between innings, and discovered that, “It was pretty obvious, as far as the tips go.”
The Astros were much more coy in their postgame comments, refusing to admit that Glasnow was tipping. But broadcast cameras caught both Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman giving what appeared to be instructions to their teammates regarding what tips to look for:
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Glasnow didn’t say exactly what he was doing to tip the Astros off; he did appear to be holding his glove higher up near his face when winding up to deliver a fastball, but bringing it down closer to his chest when readying a curveball.
The tip was obvious enough that Glasnow was able to get rid of it by the start of the second inning, but by then it was too late. Handing Astros ace Gerrit Cole a four-run lead in the first inning was a death sentence, and the game had long been decided by the time he handed the ball over to the bullpen with a 6-1 lead in the ninth.
Losing an elimination playoff game always hurts, but you have to imagine that this particular loss will be stinging Glasnow for a good while. It’s one thing to get beaten by a team of great hitters simply because they were better than you, but now Glasnow gets to spend the winter thinking about how, maybe, possibly, things would have gone differently if he just had thought a little harder about his glove placement. That’s got to be torture.