Houston lives to see another day

Astros avoid elimination with ALCS Game 4 win

Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

With the Astros having lost the first three games, an uphill battle presented itself to not only win the game to force another game but needed four straight to advance to the World Series. With the Rays carrying all the momentum into ALCS Game 4, Houston needed to get something going quick to shift things their way.

They would get another early spark from Jose Altuve, along with a strong start from Zack Greinke, to get into the win column in the ALCS. They make it a 3-1 series lead for the Rays, forcing a Game 5. Here is a quick recap of Game 4:

Final Score: Astros 4, Rays 3.

Series: TB leads 3-1.

Winning Pitcher: Zack Greinke.

Losing Pitcher: Tyler Glasnow.

Altuve brings in some early runs as Greinke has a solid start

For the third time this series, Jose Altuve would put the Astros ahead 1-0 in the first inning with a solo home run. This one was possibly the sweetest, changing the narrative off of his fielding miscues and back to his success at the plate. That success continued in his next at-bat in the bottom of the third, when he would get a rare (in this series) RBI with a runner in scoring position, a double to bring in Martin Maldonado, who worked a one-out walk earlier in the frame.

That put the Astros ahead 2-0, but the Rays would quickly respond in the top of the fourth against Zack Greinke, getting a two-run home run off the bat of Randy Arozarena to tie it up 2-2. Greinke would otherwise do well, pitching into the sixth when he would face some traffic with back-to-back one-out singles. Dusty Baker would come out to have a conversation with him, ultimately leaving him in, which proved to be the right call as he would make it through the inning. His final line: 6.0 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 1 HR, 93 P.

Astros force Game 5

Greinke would leave in line for the win, with that jam-escaping sixth inning taking place with a 4-2 lead. The two runs that had the Astros ahead came courtesy of George Springer, who would capitalize on a one-out single by Martin Maldonado by crushing a two-run go-ahead homer.

Cristian Javier would take over on the mound in the top of the seventh and erased a two-out single for a scoreless inning. He kept going in the top of the eighth, a perfect inning with two strikeouts. He would go back to the mound in the top of the ninth to try and finish it off, but after a leadoff walk, Dusty Baker would bring in Ryan Pressly. Despite allowing a two-out RBI-double, he would get the save to wrap up the win for Houston. The Astros avoid elimination with the victory and force another game in the ALCS as they try to become the second team to come back from down 3-0 in a best-of-seven series.

Up Next: ALCS Game 5 will start a bit earlier on Thursday, with first pitch at 4:07 PM Central. Neither team has announced who will start on the mound as the Astros try to keep the series going.

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This year's club is leaning on their pitching. Composite photo by Brandon Strange.

The end of the regular season is here and the 2022 MLB playoffs are about to take off. For the Houston Astros, another strong 100+ win season has them sitting atop the American League, meaning the road to the World Series in the AL will have to go through Houston.

The Astros are no strangers to postseason success. They have made the AL Championship Series for the last five straight years and the World Series in three out of the five seasons. But as Houston embarks on its 2022 postseason run, how does this year’s team compare with the other three World Series teams?

Houston’s 2017 roster will forever be known in the city and across the country for different reasons. That is the only team in franchise history to culminate a year with the Commissioner's Trophy.

That year’s iteration of the Astros entered the postseason with second baseman Jose Altuve leading the team with a .346 batting average, center fielder George Springer leading the way with 34 home runs and utility man Marwin Gonzalez leading with 90 runs batted in.

All three players made critical plays during Houston’s World Series run. Altuve ended Houston’s postseason run leading the team with a .310 batting average, 14 RBI and seven home runs.

On the pitching side of things, Houston had acquired ace Justin Verlander at the last second, and his impact was already being felt on the team. In five appearances with Houston entering the postseason, he had secured five wins with a 1.06 ERA.

Dallas Keuchel was the team’s No. 2 pitcher, and the Astros also relied on Charlie Morton, Lance McCullers Jr., Collin McHugh, Brad Peacock and Chris Devenski. The Astros aimed for pitcher Ken Giles to be the closer, a role he struggled in during the playoffs.

The postseason run saw Verlander star in the role Houston acquired him for. He went 4-1 as the team’s starter in the postseason and even helped close out the Boston Red Sox in a rare relief appearance out of the bullpen.

Fast-forward to 2019 and the team looked a bit different heading into the playoffs. Verlander was still the team’s ace, but Houston also touted Gerrit Cole and had acquired Zack Greinke in an in-season deal. Verlander struggled in the 2019 run. The Astros won only one game in his six postseason starts, including losing both of his starts in the World Series, and Verlander had a 4.33 ERA.

Jose Urquidy saw himself gain a starting role as the postseason went along, and even started a crucial Game 4 in the World Series. Houston aimed for Roberto Osuna to be the team’s closer. Pitchers Will Harris, Ryan Pressly, Peacock and Devenski played significant roles during the run.

The highlight of Houston’s 2019 postseason was Altuve’s home run off Aroldis Chapman that sent the Astros to the World Series. Altuve once again led the team in the postseason with a .329 batting average and five home runs. Yuli Gurriel led the team in playoffs with 13 RBI.

In 2021, McCullers and Greinke were back playing key roles in Houston’s pitching staff, but McCullers’ run was cut short after just one series against the Chicago White Sox. The injury forced pitchers Luis Garcia and Framber Valdez to become two faces that rose for the Astros. Urquidy was still an important part of Houston’s rotation.

Ryne Stanek, Phil Maton, Yimi Garcia, Kendall Graveman, Pressly, Brooks Raley and Cristian Javier all played significant roles in Houston’s 2021 run. Brantley led the team with a .319 batting average, Altuve led the way with five home runs and it was Kyle Tucker with the most RBI, driving in 15.

The 2022 Astros have seen the resurgence of Verlander, who will get his first taste of postseason action since the 2019 run. He leads the Astros with 17 wins and a 1.80 ERA. Valdez has become Houston’s No. 2 starter, and Houston gained McCullers in late August after he had missed most of the season with the same forearm injury that plagued him in the 2021 run. He has a 2.27 ERA and four wins in eight starts.

Houston has a lot of depth in the pitching rotation. Garcia has put together a strong 2022 season, helping the Astros get 15 wins in his 18 starts with a 3.72 ERA. Urquidy has 13 wins in 28 starts with a 3.94 ERA. Javier has shown he is more than capable of being a starter in the postseason, accumulating 11 wins with a 2.54 ERA.

On offense, Yordan Alvarez leads the way with a .301 batting average and 37 home runs. Altuve is second with a .296 batting average and 18 home runs. Tucker leads the team with 104 RBI. Alvarez is second with 96.

When comparing the teams, it is clear the 2022 Houston Astros have a distinct pitching advantage over its previous counterparts. Houston has six starting caliber pitchers, five of which have won double-digit games and all six have an ERA below 4.0 ahead of the 2022 postseason run. That is something not even the 2019 roster could boast.

Houston’s offense in 2022 is where the team takes a back seat. The 2022 roster will likely be the only team that does not have multiple players with a batting average above .300. Only Alvarez passes that threshold in 2022. The 2021, 2019 and 2017 rosters each had multiple batters pass that watermark.

It is worth noting, however, that the 2017 Astros had zero players that accumulated more than 100 RBI during the regular season. Each roster in 2019, 2021 and 2022 has multiple hitters with 90 or more RBI and at least one hitter with over 100.

The 2022 Astros will also be looking to break a pattern of the team being unable to advance to the World Series in an even year, and during the recent run, when the ALCS is televised by TBS. While this has nothing to do with the actual product, it is an interesting trend.

At the end of the day, if Houston’s 2022 pitching staff can continue its stellar work into the postseason, the offense should be able to produce enough runs to make a deep postseason run. For general manager James Click and manager Dusty Baker, it may just be championship or bust for both to stay with the organization past 2022.

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