Win or go home

ALCS Game 4 Preview: Rays vs. Astros

Astros Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa
Photo by Will Newton/ Getty Images

Astros Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa

We may look back at this ALCS and wonder how things would have shaped up if a few key plays go the other way in favor of the Astros. It certainly looks like they would be in a much better spot if they had, yet Houston sits down 3-0 and needs to win on Wednesday to avoid elimination and play another day. Here is the quick rundown of Game 4:

Game Facts

When: Wednesday, October 14th, 7:40 PM Central.

Where: Petco Park - San Diego, California.


Streaming: Watch TBS App.

Pitching Matchup: Tyler Glasnow vs. Zack Greinke.

Series: TB leads 3-0.

Series Schedule

Date & Time (Central)Pitching MatchupHome Team
Game 1Final: Rays 2, Astros 1Framber Valdez (L) vs. Blake Snell (W)Rays
Game 2Final: Rays 4, Astros 2Lance McCullers Jr. (L) vs. Charlie Morton (W)Rays
Game 3Final: Rays 5, Astros 2Ryan Yarbrough (W) vs. Jose Urquidy (L)Astros
Game 4Wed 10/14, 7:40 PMTyler Glasnow vs. Zack GreinkeAstros
Game 5*Thu 10/15, 4:07 PMTBD vs. TBDAstros
Game 6*Fri 10/16, 5:07 PMTBD vs. TBDRays
Game 7*Sat 10/17, 7:37 PMTBD vs. TBDRays

All games played at Petco Park.

* If necessary

Game Storylines

Worry about tomorrow, tomorrow

In case you weren't aware, and get ready because you'll hear it a lot from various outlets, including the TV broadcast itself, there has only been one MLB team to ever come back from a 3-0 deficit, which the Astros currently face, the 2004 Boston Red Sox. Houston shouldn't even put that into their mindset yet and widen their scope to the next four days; they need to hone in on one game, and take it inning by inning, batter by batter.

Before we can even start comparing them to that Red Sox team, they have to win Game 4 to avoid a sweep. Win today to live another day, and if you can do that four times in a row, you move on. The good news there is that's enough of a momentum shift to propel you into a successful World Series, like Boston, who would go on to win it all in 2004.

Leave yesterday in the past

In the same way, the Astros, specifically Jose Altuve, have to try their best to treat this game as if it's in a vacuum. Call it the yips, bad luck, or whatever you want, but one sure way to keep the streak of errors and miscues going is to overcompensate because you've got them on your mind.

Unless he's got something else going on physically, Jose Altuve did not suddenly become a terrible defender during his trip down the coast from Los Angeles to San Diego. Neither did this lineup who won the ALDS via a barrage of hits and homers suddenly become terrible batters. No, you don't have time to let it settle itself out naturally as you would in a long regular season, but neither can you afford to let the mental stress of it impact your game today, either. Houston's best chance today, and in any potential future games this year, is if they can just be themselves, which is more who they were against Oakland than they've been against Tampa Bay.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

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The Texans will have to shuffle the o-line once again. Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images.

“Another one!”- DJ Khaled

That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.

The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.

Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!

One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.

As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.

To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.

I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.

The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.

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