The Houston Astros won two significant games to totally flip the ALCS series against the Boston Red Sox and they did it two very different ways.
The Astros did score 9 runs in both Games 4 and 5 to take a 3-2 lead in the ALCS. And no, they did not do it by whistling, garbage can banging, or mental telepathy. But except for the total runs scored, these two games were very different in any way one would want to judge them:
- Game 4 was the fourth in a series of short starts for the Astros. The game was turned over to the bullpen with one out in the second inning with a 2-1 deficit and they held the rope for the rest of the game only giving up a run after the game was basically over. Brooks Raley, Phil Maton, Cristian Javier and Kendall Graveman combined for 6.2 innings of scoreless ball. Game 5 was the ultimate salve to an overworked bullpen as Framber Valdez gave up a single run in eight insanely strong innings of work. That was 1.1 inning more than the Astros first four starters (including Framber himself) accumulated in the first four games of the series.
- Game 4 seemed like a series of desperate actions like a newbie trying to stay upright on a tightrope for the Astros. After being beaten badly in Games 2 and 3, the team seemed like a boxer one punch away from being knocked out. They wobbled along trailing for the great length of the game, but did not fall any farther back than that 2-1 deficit and stood tall in the 8th to tie it and the 9th to win it. In Game 5, even though they only had a 1-0 lead through five innings, seemed like a game where the Astros had control behind a starting pitcher who dominated his opponent with quick innings and low pitch counts.
- In Game 4 the Astros did not take control until they scored 7 runs with two outs in the 9th with Jason Castro’s go ahead single and Michael Brantley’s bases clearing double being the big blows. Of course, an even bigger blow was Jose Altuve’s game tying home run in the 8th that broke the ice for an offense that was going nowhere after an Alex Bregman home run in the 1st. Game 5 was iced earlier as the team broke out for five runs and a 6-0 lead in the 6th inning. Along with Alvarez’s two run double, an RBI double by Yuli Gurriel and a 2 run single by Jose Siri were the big hits in that rally.
- Game 4 had a big array of heroes, between Raley, Maton, Javier, Graveman, Bregman, Altuve, Castro and Brantley, who held the game close, tied it and broke it open. For Game 5, one big hero was Yordan Alvarez with his three opposite field lasers, two of which drove in the first 3 runs of the game and gave the other hero, Framber Valdez, some breathing room. Still, the biggest hero was Framber, who not only gave a physical lift to the team, but an emotional/psychological booster shot.
The Astros head to Game 6 with a miraculously rested bullpen as only Stanek pitched on Wednesday night. They may well need it with Luis Garcia and his tender knee heading out to the mound in a critical start Friday night. The good thing is that the fans know and more importantly the Astros know they can win games in many, varied ways.
That knowledge is a big reason they have made 5 ALCS’s and 2 World Series in the last five seasons. Will there be one more World Series visit on their resume? We will know sometime between now and Saturday night…..