Another chance to put Oakland away

ALDS Game 4 Preview: A's vs. Astros

Astros George Springer
Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images
Astros George Springer

Although the Astros, who dropped ALDS Game 3 to the A's, won't finish the postseason a perfect 13-0 with sweeps of all four series, they are still in prime position to move on to the ALCS. They hold a 2-1 lead going into ALDS Game 4, needing just one more win to take the best-of-five. Here is what to look for in Thursday's matchup:

Game Facts

When: Thursday October 8th, 2:35 PM Central.

Where: Dodger Stadium - Los Angeles, California.


Streaming: Watch TBS App.

Pitching Matchup: Frankie Montas vs. TBD.

Series: HOU leads 2-1.

Series Schedule

Date & TimePitching MatchupHome Team

Game 1Astros 10, A's 5Lance McCullers Jr. (ND) vs. Chris Bassitt (ND)A's
Game 2Astros 5, A's 2Framber Valdez (W) vs. Sean Manaea (L)A's
Game 3A's 9, Astros 7Jesús Luzardo (ND) vs. Jose Urquidy (ND)
Game 4Thu 10/8, 2:35 PMFrankie Montas vs. TBD
Game 5*Fri 10/9, 2:35 PMTBD vs. TBDA's

All games played at Dodger Stadium.

* If necessary

Game Storylines

Who will start on the mound for Houston?

With all the home runs and scoring in the first three games of this series, both teams feel the effects of using so many bullpen arms in these games happening on consecutive days instead of the ALDS's typical off-days. In fact, it sets up a precarious situation for Houston, who are waiting until Thursday morning on an update on Zack Greinke's status before they decide on their starter. If Greinke can pitch, obviously that presents the Astros their best shot, and they will put him out there.

If not, they have a couple of choices, most likely either Luis Garcia or Cristian Javier, who are the most rested and have started games this season. Garcia, who was not on the ALWC roster but is on the ALDS roster, faced this the A's in his start on September 9th. He held them scoreless over five innings in that game, leaving in line for the win before Houston's bullpen would allow the winning runs for Oakland. Javier pitched a scoreless inning out of the pen on Monday in Game 1, so he could likely get through a few innings if he's going well. No matter who is on the mound to start the game, Dusty Baker will probably be taking things inning by inning, and possibly batter by batter, depending on how the momentum shifts during the game.

The Astros need to get Montas out early

On the other side, Oakland has decided on Frankie Montas to be on the bump. He did not start in the ALWC series, instead coming in for two innings in ALWC Game 3 after Mike Fiers could not complete two frames. During the regular season, Montas started three times against the Astros, with a mixed bag of results.

On August 8th, he held Houston scoreless over seven innings in a win. On the 29th of that month, the Astros chased him out after just 3.1 innings and five runs in a seven-inning doubleheader game, handing him a loss. Then, on September 8th, he squeaked out a win after five two-run innings, with his offense bailing him out with runs against Zack Greinke in another part of a doubleheader. Having put up 22 runs so far, it's not so much a matter of if, but when, Houston will get hot at the plate again with the ball flying out of Dodger Stadium. Hopefully for them, though, it comes early against Montas so they can get into a heavily-used Oakland bullpen sooner rather than later.

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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Astros on the hunt. Composite Getty Image.

With the Astros' surge from 10 games out of first place to within two games of Seattle, catching and going past the Mariners has naturally become the top objective. It's no given to happen but it's right there. In the final series ahead of the All-Star break, while the Mariners are in the midst of four games with the lowly Angels, the last two World Series champions renew (un)pleasantries at Minute Maid Park.

The Astros enter the weekend five games ahead of the Rangers. They lead the season series with the reigning champs four wins to three. While the Astros can't quite finish off the Arlingtonians by sweeping them in this three game set, shoving them eight games back (even further back of Seattle and the current Wild Card teams) and clinching the tiebreaker would seem close to a death blow. Taking two out of three would be fine for the Astros. If the Rangers win the series, they are clearly still in the American League West and Wild Card races coming out of the All-Star break.

Last year the Rangers had the best offense in the AL. So far in 2024 they rank a mediocre eighth in runs per game. Nathaniel Lowe is the lone Ranger (get it?!?) regular playing as well as he did last season. Corey Seager has been fine but not at the MVP runner-up level of last year. Marcus Semien is notably down, as is 2023 ALCS Astros-obliterater Adolis Garcia. Stud 2023 rookie Josh Jung has been out with a broken wrist since ex-Astro Phil Maton hit him with a pitch in the fourth game of this season, though fill-in third baseman Josh Smith has been the Rangers' best player. 21-year-old late season phenom Evan Carter largely stunk the first two months this season and has been out since late May with a back injury. Repeating is hard, never harder than it is now. Hence no Major League Baseball has done it since the Yankees won three straight World Series 1998-2000.

Chasing down the Division at a crazy clip

From the abyss of their 7-19 start, the Astros sweep over the Marlins clinched a winning record at the break with them at 49-44. Heading into the Texas matchup the Astros have won at a .627 clip since they were 7-19. A full season of .627 ball wins 101 games. If the Astros win at a .627 rate the rest of the way they'll finish with 92 wins, almost certainly enough to secure a postseason slot and likely enough to win the West. Expecting .627 the rest of the way is ambitious.

With it fairly clear that Lance McCullers is highly unlikely to contribute anything after his latest recovery setback, and Luis Garcia a major question mark, what Justin Verlander has left in 2024 grows more important. With the way the Astros often dissemble or poorly forecast when discussing injuries, for all we know Verlander could be cooked. Inside three weeks to the trade deadline, General Manager Dana Brown can't be thinking a back end of the rotation comprised of Spencer Arrighetti and Jake Bloss should be good enough. The Astros have 66 games to play after the All-Star break, including separate stretches with games on 18 and 16 consecutive days.

All-Star MIAs

Viewership for Tuesday's All-Star game at Globe Life Field in Arlington will be pretty, pretty, pretty low in Houston. One, All-Star Game ratings are pitiful every year compared to where they used to be. Two, the Astros could be down to zero representatives at Tuesday's showcase. Kyle Tucker was rightfully named a reserve but had no shot at playing as he continues the loooong recovery from a bone bruise (or worse) suffered June 3. Being named an All-Star for a ninth time was enough for Jose Altuve. He opts out of spending unnecessary time in Texas Rangers territory citing a sore wrist. This despite Altuve playing four games in a row since sitting out the day after he was plunked and highly likely to play in all three games versus the Rangers this weekend. Yordan Alvarez exiting Wednesday's rout of the Marlins with hip discomfort and then missing Thursday's game seem clear reasons for him to skip, though he has indicated thus far he intends to take part. Yordan is the most essential lineup component to the Astros' hopes of making an eighth straight playoff appearance.

Ronel Blanco should have made the American League squad on performance, but pretty obviously his 10 game illegal substance use suspension was held against him. As it works out, Blanco will pitch Sunday in the last game before the break which would render him unavailable for the All-Star Game anyway. Blanco is eligible to pitch, but given the career high-shattering innings workload Blanco is headed for, no way the Astros want him on the mound Tuesday. Just last year the Astros kept Framber Valdez from pitching in the game.

While waiting, and waiting, and waiting on Tucker's return, the Astros have also been waiting on Chas McCormick to get back to something even faintly resembling the hitter he was last year. McCormick routinely looks lost at the plate. He has four hits (all singles) in his last 32 at bats with his season OPS pitiful at .572. During the break the Astros should seriously weigh sending McCormick to AAA Sugar Land and giving Pedro Leon a try in a job share with Joey Loperfido.

*Catch our weekly Stone Cold ‘Stros podcast. Brandon Strange, Josh Jordan, and I discuss varied Astros topics. The first post for the week generally goes up Monday afternoon (second part released Tuesday) via The SportsMap HOU YouTube channel or listen to episodes in their entirety at Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

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