Heading into the fourth game of the ALCS against the Boston Red Sox, the Astros seemed to be a team on its last legs.
After getting swamped in a flurry of grand slams, the Astros had been creamed in two consecutive games that were not as close as the final scores, and the final scores were not that close. The Astros were down 2-1, the rotation was a mess due to injury and rotten pitching, the bullpen had been abused by a starting staff that went 2.2, 1, and 1.2 innings in consecutive games, and they were starting a pitcher, Zack Greinke, who was only expected to go 40 pitches (and used most of those in an overly long first inning).
Things seemed even more desperate after Greinke recorded only 4 outs in the game and left with the Astros down 2-1 due to a Xander Bogaerts’ home run in the first inning. At this point, the Astros bullpen could have folded faster than a lawn chair (or the Red Sox bullpen in the 9th inning), but they gutted it out. Brooks Raley got out of the 2nd inning with no damage done. Cristian Javier threw three solid scoreless innings to give the team hope. Phil Maton added another scoreless inning to a solid postseason resume with the Astros. Kendall Graveman looked the best he has looked since the trade-in adding two scoreless innings to the evening. In between Graveman’s two innings, Jose Altuve added a solo shot that Alex Bregman hit in the first to tie the game in the eighth inning. In the ninth, the Astros then squeezed out a runoff of second game starter Nathan Eovaldi as Jason Castro continued his late-inning magic. Castro slashed .375 BA/.490 OBP/ 1.140 OPS in Late and Close situations this season, and he continued that excellence with the tie-breaking single bringing home Carlos Correa after his inning opening double. Martin Perez came in, and the floodgates opened as Michael Brantley slashed a bases-clearing double, and Yordan Alvarez, Carlos Correa, and Kyle Tucker all added run-scoring singles.
So, today the Astros do feel like they are in a tied series…
- They will get to go home for at least the sixth game of the series.
- They have taken home-field advantage back from the Red Sox with the win.
- The Red Sox had to be mentally down a bit as they believed they would win Tuesday night. How often does a team beat you when your starting pitcher goes 5 innings with 1 run given up, and the opposing starter only goes 1.1 innings?
- The Astros have Framber Valdez going in game 5, and though he was no great shakes in Game 1, he has had good postseason work previous to that start.
- The Red Sox may be questioning their swashbuckling manager Alex Cora, who threw Eovaldi out there in the ninth and lost.
This could always change a lot in Game 5 as the Astros have a vulnerable bullpen where Graveman (2 innings) and Javier (3 innings) are likely not available, and Maton and Raley have pitched two days in a row. But watching such a gutty effort in Game 4, anything is possible. The Red Sox were being called the team of destiny after knocking off the Yankees and the Rays. But perhaps in Game 4, destiny has changed sides.