The Houston Astros weren’t getting swept out of the postseason — not if Jose Altuve and George Springer had anything to say about it.
Altuve, whose errors had led to Tampa Bay Rays wins in two games so far in this ALCS, was one of the heroes in Game 4 as the Astros staved off elimination with a 4-3 win. He homered in the first inning and had an RBI double in the third inning.
After the Rays tied the game on a Randy Arozarena homer, Springer swooped in and played playoff hero again. Springer is no stranger to big homers in the postseason, and this time he blasted a go-ahead two-run homer in the fifth inning.
And by blasted, we mean this look at this:
It was a gutsy answer-back win for the Astros, who had hit the ball in this series but often not when runners were in scoring position. They had pitched well, for the most part, but had been hurt by errors and big homers.
Sending Zack Greinke to the mound wasn’t a sure thing. He’d been hurt in the playoffs and not terribly effective, but he was spot on Wednesday night. Greinke threw six innings, striking out seven and giving up just the two runs on the Arozarena home run.
A key moment came in the sixth when Dusty Baker seemed ready to take Greinke out with Arozarena coming to the plate after consecutive singles. Greinke stayed in and struck out Arozarena, then got Ji-Man Choi singled to load the bases, Greinke struck out Mike Brosseau to end the inning.
The Astros turned to rookie Cristian Javier after Greinke — one of their potential Game 5 starters, more on that shortly — and he pitched into the ninth inning before turning the ball over to closer Ryan Pressly. The Rays tacked on one run with two outs in the ninth, but the game ended with Willy Adames stranded on third base.
In a bit of fitting closure, Altuve made virtually the same play he mangled in Game 3 for the second out of the ninth. All of it, a bit of welcomed relief for the Astros.
Everybody piled on Altuve after his errors in Games 2 and 3. So let’s give the man his due here. He responded in the first inning by sending a Tyler Glasnow pitch into the seats.
The Astros survive to play another game, but the stakes remain the same — it’s lose and go home in Game 5. Neither team has announced a starter yet, but this is where things get interesting. Normally in a playoff Game 5, we’re starting to see a top-of-the-rotation starter for the second time in the series. Not necessarily this time, given there are no off days in this bubble format. Javier might have been a starter for Houston, but they burned him in Game 4.
This is where we start to see managers get a little more creative with their pitching strategies — or send someone out on shorter rest.
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