Another chance to put Oakland away

ALDS Game 4 Preview: A's vs. Astros

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

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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Yainer Diaz should be a big factor early in the season. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.

Opening Day for the Houston Astros is right around the corner and the reigning champions of the baseball world have set their final roster.

Three players whose names stood on the final 26 were catchers Yainer Diaz and Cesar Salazar as well as right-handed pitcher Ronel Blanco, and outfielder Corey Julks.

While some might be surprised to see their names on the main roster, the Astros’ logic behind it reveals the focus is not just on this season, but for the future as well.

Let’s start with Diaz and Salazar, who both edged out prospect Korey Lee for the backup catcher position. Lee was the Astros’ first-round selection in the 2019 draft. His numbers during 2023 spring training were .258/.343/.827 with two home runs and six RBI in 31 at-bats.

In comparison, Diaz’s slashes were .325/.317/.892 with one home run and eight RBI in 40 at-bats. Salazar put together a slash line of .286/.407/.978 with a home run and seven RBI in 21 at-bats.

While not making the opening day roster is a blow for Lee, Houston general manager Dana Brown said it is not necessarily a reflection of where the organization views him as a player.

Brown said it is vital for Lee to play every single day being a first-round sound selection. That would not be the case had he made the Astros roster, with Martin Maldonaldo solidified as the starter.

“He's like a big time, frontline guy with some power, so you can't have guys like that sitting on the bench at the Major League level, so you have to get him playing time,” Brown said. “Whereas Salazar is a backup catcher, and he fills that role better.”

While that argument works regarding Salazar, it will be interesting to see what Diaz does with his roster spot. Both Diaz and Lee are 24 years old. Diaz made his MLB debut last September and appeared in only six games for the Astros.

As for Blanco, the right-handed pitcher put together an impressive spring training for Houston that earned him his spot in the bullpen. The Dominican Republic native pitched 14 innings, giving up only one run. He put together a 0.64 ERA.

Blanco is going to be raring to showcase to Houston his improvement from last season. He had a rough 2022 season in the big leagues, appearing in only seven games and giving up five runs and accumulating a 7.11 ERA.

The 29-year-old beat out pitchers like Brandon Bielak and veteran Austin Davis to make the team’s crowded bullpen. For Blanco, it is all about producing in the majors.

One final player to spotlight is Corey Julks. He came as a bit of a surprise as well, with many thinking Justin Dirden's impressive spring could get him a spot on the roster. But Julks has more experience and posted a big year with the Space Cowboys in 2022. The former University of Houston Cougar crushed 31 home runs for Sugar Land last year and had a slash line this spring of .275/.318/.550 with 2 homers.

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