2021 ALCS: Now this feels like a tied series

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.

64 comments on “2021 ALCS: Now this feels like a tied series

  1. I think A-Rod said it best in the post game – this series is going to be VERY difficult to win if someone doesn’t show up and give Baker 5 innings at some point.

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  2. Framber was HUGE! A classic stopper when we needed one most. The Astros know this Red Sox pitching staff can be had. And the Red Sox probably thought they had the Astros pitchers number too, but after the bullpen yesterday and Framber today they may be having doubts. I like our chances to win one out of 2 at home.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think that light, in the scoreboard area that stop the game, was actually a reflection of a camera lenses because I could make out what appeared to an arm to the left of it. Cheating by the Sox???

    Liked by 1 person

  4. We’ve got a .790 OPS in the post season. That’s pretty good. But we have not gotten much from the 2 and 3 spots in the lineup. I know Dusty Baker will not make any lineup changes, nor would I, but it would sure be nice to see Bregman and Brantley to have more good at bats. It looks like they might be coming around. And I sure would like to see Baker stop taking at bats away from Chas. I can’t come up with any reasoning for sitting Chas. Not with Siri.

    Liked by 1 person

    • And yet daveB – though it was just a flare, Siri had one of the most impactful hits of the game. His two run single took it from 4-0 (within range of another grand slam) to 6-0 (a discouraging gap for the Red Sox).
      I don’t always agree with everything Baker does, but he has kept everybody sharp. At times during the season I did not want to see Maton pitch ever again, but he has been very good in the post season. Javier was terrible down the stretch but great in the post season. So, maybe the old man knows what he is doing.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Like I said earlier, when your team is down big and you decide to swing at the first pitch immediately after someone grounds into a double play you probably aren’t improving your chances for more playing time.

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  5. -Framber was gold.
    -Yordan showed what the Astros can do. Beat you from so many places in the lineup.
    -Jose Siri mattered. Playing him in CF paid off.
    -When I looked at the list of relievers who were rested, Stanek was the only guy on it.
    – I thought Buck was the big Boston guy in the broadcast booth, but it is Smoltz who was so disappointed last night. Then I realized he pitched for the Red Sox too, and will be unbearable if the Astros were to face Atlanta.
    – Anyone else notice Pena hanging with Correa in the dugout last night. I pointed it out to my wife, who soon realized the significance of it.
    – Phil Maton’s journey this season with the Astros is like an elk hunt. All the driving and cussing and climbing, freezing and sweating. Then, there it is outlined in your sights. You realize that trade paid off in the playoffs.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Big ups on this post, Op.

      I definitely noticed Correa being a solid teammate for the future of the position. Really says a lot about his character, and the way management has not turned the situation sour. If Carlos can make $400M somewhere, God bless him–he won’t be the first or last favorite sons to fly onward. Jeremy Pena is going to be a stud! Baker was hugging him after the DS win too.

      [Brings an interesting question I would never have given serious thought to: if Astros win Dusty a ring, would either party extend him ONE more year? Gut says, No, and even Strom is probably going to take a lesser if any, role.]

      I must say, I never doubted Phil Maton. That kid looks more poised than anyone, even in the midst of a shelling. We have him for a few years, too and the other kid acquired for Straw, Yainer Diaz hit 11 HR in 25 games at catcher. With Korey Lee on the horizon, and Berryhill (traded for Cionel Perez) winning one of the teams’ minor league Players of the Year, backstop position is well fortified.

      A few guys of interest speaking of deadline acquisitions, do we try to make something on Montero ($3M price tage), or Kendall Graveman? Given the long list of pitchers coming into Spring, those are going to be tough decisions.

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      • Playing our favorite game of “It’s not my money” I’d certainly be interested in Graveman returning. I don’t know if I want him closing games, but certainly he’s shown he can do it for stretches and has the stuff to get out anyone in the opposing lineup. We have arms in the minors, but we’ve seen plenty of guys come out and throw so inconsistently you couldn’t rely on them.

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      • Always the right caveat, ‘it’s not our money.”

        And too, relievers are incredibly volatile — witness Framber Valdez in 2018 ’til today. In the same conversation for ’22, we could be looking at solid form from Abreu Paredes Scrubb Taylor. When you say arms in the minors, how about Solomon Bermudez HBrown Hansen Conine Endersby Torres? Don’t sleep on Miseal Tamarez, Jonathan Sprinkle, or even JA Rivera. Lots of guys had mediocre stats, but who knows if coaches were having thwm work on stuff? That’s certainly a smart strategy if they are coming up on Rule 5.

        Graveman, I’ve always liked. Same as Odorizzi. I’m thinking they just need a little more time in the system to start Click-ing. Montero has an electric fastball, but I cannot see paying his price tag given this partial list above. The Astros have been good about giving guys in the system a shot first, like say journeyman Garza Sanabria Castellanos (let go) Seth Martinez. Perhaps, Ronel Blanco will bring his newfound success into next Spring.. We have arms coming out of our ears.

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    • Not a big fan of Turner, but one thing I did gain a little respect for him is when LMJ beaned him, he took his base without incident. I have it on good authority the Dodgers clubhouse was a cancer. I believe Andrew Friedman and Mookie Betts have helped to change their culture, and letting Verdugo go. On that note, have to hand it to the old Rays front office that all left, Chaim Bloom took BOS much farther than expected. Those guys were all writing about baseball at Baseball America not too long ago–look how far they’ve come! And look at the moronic owners who have held on to Preller and Jon Daniels. It’s no wonder they will never amount to anything, no matter how much they spend.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Me too, AC!

        It reminds me of a quote I heard once that I never really understood. Teams are more profitable if they are middle of the road contenders. I suppose it suggests fans are more interested when there’s an uphill climb, than if we simply take for granted the playoffs are a given?

        Either way, the Rangers are hapless, and I love it.

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  6. When I listen to Buck, Smoltz, Pierzynski, etc. I forget that Blummer and TK are talking to baseball fans. Those guys are talking to a softball beer league group that have watched maybe 3 games all year. So they need to exaggerate to keep the drunks watching. Everything we hear from them, we know as fact or fiction. So they are boring and one-sided. I love my mute button.

    Liked by 2 people

    • One of my career highlights was playing several seasons of beer league slow pitch for the infamous Burlap Barrell when it was at its original location in the Lantern Lane shopping center off Memorial. Anyone ever stop in?

      We’re in the middle of the ALCS. How many rookies put up a 2.3 WAR in half a season? Defense. Bat. Mostly reliable base running. All facets of his game pretty darn good. I just feel better with Chas out there right now.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Missed your games, but I did enjoy several games in Arlington watching my friend manage a slow pitch team. He had a young black kid that hit it over the fence every at bat. I asked my friend what was the kids name? It was Cocaine Curtis. That answered all my questions.

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  7. It is too early for this comment, but heck – here goes. I thought that Straw was tradeable because we had McCormick. I think one of these three are tradeable this off season. Siri, McCormick or Meyers. We need to keep two and pair with Tucker starting in 2023. The question is which two are better in the long haul. J D Martinez and even Kiki or Laureano or JD Davis have to sit in the back of the FO minds.

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    • This senior moment post is attempting to explain why I think Dusty is using all 3 of these guys. They are similar in talent, and I think the FO is attempting to make a valuation for the future. They made a similar decision on Bryan De La Cruz without benefit of any MLB time. And he had a decent year in Miami.

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      • I agree with you, but the difference between Jeff Luhnow and most GMs is that the former felt like he had to win every trade and really stick it to the other party whereas most GMs are just trying to improve their team and understand to get something of value you have to give something up. This means we couldn’t evaluate the four outfielders and give the Marlins the one we expected to be the least valuable – we had to decide whether their requested player was an acceptable loss for what we were getting in return. Circling back, we got burned letting JDM, Laureano, Teoscar, and JD Davis go because Luhnow’s evaluation by spreadsheet wasn’t particularly accurate. Had he listened to a number of people in the organization (Ensberg comes to mind, but I’m not sure that helps my case) he would have only lost/moved Davis.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Devin, I was livid the day of the JD Davis trade, and took a lot of flack for it. According to Ben Reiter though, Luhnow losing a few made him an attractive trade partner. And well, he even went back to the NYM well yet again on Marisnick for Blake Taylor. He certainly won a landslide on JV before extension, Pressley and Yordan (if we aren’t crediting Charlie Gonzales wholly for it). In fact, Luhnow’s fascination with Jack Chapman in early years — according to Sawchick he definitely tanked and other owners hated him for it — Jeff was not the best evaluator! Luhnow’s talent was getting the right people in the job, and that I think in looking at Crane’s businesses is his keen eye too. Winning at all costs ended up biting them in a Boys Club that had them outpowered and outgunned. We’ve had to bide our time through penalties, but at least Click seems to have an eye for the future, evidenced by staying under the threshold this year at dealine.

        Liked by 2 people

  8. Loved the post by Josh Donaldson.

    “I love people saying nonsense about Altuve not being a HOFer because they suspect him cheating. Please don’t forget if you were a Yankees/Redsox fan none of your guys are HOFers because both of them got caught using apple watches before the Astros got caught.”

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve tried to avoid chatting about the past 4 years of bullshit related to the Astro cheating scandal. Let’s face it, for the most part, we’ve deserved it. But the present day Boston Red Sox fan; drunk or sober, grandma or grandpa, son or daughter, 12 year old grandchild, heck, the whole family still embraces the most vulger Altuve chant. I’m sure a significant percentage of that group goes to mass on Sunday morning. They should pray. And yet, the Boston organization, they cheated plenty in 2018. Their manager helped run the Houston cheating operation. Obviously, the league is still concerned about their integrity. That matters little to me. Jose Altuve is a decent man. We know that. But I hope he plays a significant role tomorrow in ending the remarkable baseball series we’ve been watching. How many guys today circle the bases so elegantly after a home run?

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  9. Noted the brief mention of JD Davis. At this point, he’s got a lifetime 5.1 OWAR and a -3.8 DWAR. How come he’s still in the National League? Are the Mets holding out for the universal DH?

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  10. The guys did what they needed to do yesterday….time to finish the job.
    They’ve been here before and they know what they need to do. I absolutely hate days off between games, the guys tend to go asleep and so do their bats.
    I’ve said from the beginning this series will go 7….I just hope they come out pitching and hitting tomorrow night!

    Liked by 3 people

      • Amelia Earhart and Jim Morrison were doing the whistling…..”C’mon Yordan cock and fire….”
        Yes, they were also whistling to tell Framber where the batters were swinging so he could miss their bats.
        Apparently whistles are at such a high frequency that Martin Maldonado can not hear them and that is why he is 1 for 26 in the post season.
        They whistled and it distracted Umpire Laz Diaz so bad he could not call Jason Castro out on strikes (and apparently distracted him to make bad calls about 20 more times in that Game 4)
        They whistled and like in a seance brought back the spirit of Dick “Dr. Strangeglove” Stuart to play first base in the body of Kyle Schwarber. Or maybe it was Marvelous Marv Throneberry.

        Liked by 2 people

  11. The Bridge Over the River Kwai it wasn’t . . . .

    Long, long time ago … I can still remember when …
    a whistle just meant things were Zen.
    Who knew some fool would take offense;
    abandoning all good common sense –
    and scream ‘They’re Cheating!’ at the sound of wind?

    I guess GarbageCan-Gate made us suspect;
    so one shows us any respect;
    Don’t purse your lips at Fenway;
    They’ll call for instant replay!

    They want to know if Jose’ chilled;
    or if Bregman hummed; or Carlos trilled;
    Who knows if it was just a spark; or a signal light at Fenway Park?
    there were tons and tons of question marks … the day the Sox got killed.

    They started singin’: ‘Down! Down! You’ll wear no ALC crown;
    you took Chris Sale over the Monster but what was that shrill sound?
    Now they cry “foul” in both the Bronx and Bean Town,
    and we think Shmoltz and Buck had nervous breakdowns!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. I haven’t been very talkative this week.
    There are a lot of things going on here and few of them are good. I need the Astros as a distraction, but I don’t want to jinx them with optimism or pessimism.
    We continue to pray and push on but we are definitely feeling our age.
    The Houston- Boston Series has been so entertaining with both teams showing muscle and vulnerability. It has been a really good baseball event and I appreciate both teams and their efforts.

    Liked by 3 people

  13. Things you might not know, but they will matter:
    *The Astros signed two 18 year old international pitchers this week. Almost no info, but you can search Astros Transactions for the little there is. Both have been assigned to DSL.
    * The Astros apparently owe Zack Greinke $12.5 million a year for the next five years. This is deferred salary and will count towards the Luxury Tax each year. I did not know about this before and it was added to Spotrac’s numbers just in the past week. This is money owed him from his Diamondback deal and will be paid to him whether he pitches anywhere or not at all, as I understand it.
    https://www.spotrac.com/mlb/houston-astros/zack-greinke-407/
    You can find this at the bottom of this link.
    Makes a big difference in the Astros future payrolls.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Franklin Barreto was outrighted to the minors this morning by the Angels
    In 2017 Barreto was the Athletics #1 prospect and #33 MLB prospect.
    He has a -1.0 war in his career.
    You never know. Right now, Forrest Whitley is on the same path.

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    • You misspelled, Freudis Nova. When we DFA, it won’t matter.
      Not an apologist just facts, Forrest Whitley is still very much in the mix, and would be scooped up in a second flat if we quit him.

      The number increased exponentially as the season wore on, to the point that playoff teams even after resting their horses are still depleted (LMJ). The Braves just last night used Openers, and others have thrown “bullpen games.” Mentioning it, since I feel like a lone voice since 2016.

      From MAY 6, 2021 alone (MLB Trade Rumors):

      “Elbow troubles are nothing new for pitchers [no big deal, right?], of course, but we’ve seen a bevy of Tommy John surgeries already in 2021. Dustin May, Kirby Yates, James Paxton, Adrian Morejon, Luis Avilan, Jose Leclerc, Jonathan Hernandez, Jimmy Cordero, Blake Cederlind, Roenis Elias, Forrest Whitley, Jose Castillo, Michel Baez and Bryan Mata are just some of the big leaguers and notable prospects to undergo UCL replacement surgery since Spring Training opened a couple months back.

      One more morsal for thought:
      Last summer, Garrett Whitlock was in the New York Yankees’ farm system, recovering from Tommy John surgery and working 10-hour days in the Alabama sun as a landscaper.
      Now, he’s the Boston Red Sox’ most reliable reliever.

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    • Hope you have some good news on horizon, Op.

      Also, I posted two videos of Whitley’s progress and many times they are lost in “moderation.” Whomever is responsible for this (might just be an algorhythm and not a person) ought to consider that I often mention Chipalatta on other sites, and they do not delete them. So, if you’d like to see his progress, one might simply type into a site beginning with a “T” Whitley rehab video.

      I believe in giving credit where due, and Forrest Whitley has gotten the shaft. I even put rep on the line by posting an insider’s view of what the Astros did to him, and was accused of some sort of false rumor. The amount of doubt surrounding him is unbelievable. If you want to talk about real “busts”, look at the 20 other million dollar Astro drafts who never made it past AA.

      Keep in mind, on the night he was drafted, he threw 6.2 innings, struck out 11 on 123 pitches. There has been a considerable amount of wear and tear on the arm before surgery. He stands to have a new lease on life, and could have easily been called up in 2019.

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      • Yes, I mentioned Whitley, only because he is on that path. I still believe he can contribute. Barreto showed promised and didn’t pan out. For five years Whitley has shown nothing. But! he still has a chance to become a major league pitcher if he will choose to follow the path that smarter people than him will lead him down.

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