ALCS Game 4

Astros bullpen collapses, blows lead as Yankees tie series with 6-4 victory

Astros bullpen collapses, blows lead as Yankees tie series with 6-4 victory
Ken Giles took the loss as the bullpen faltered. Al Bello/Getty Images

The Astros' bullpen squandered a great start from Lance McCullers and a four-run lead, allowing the Yankees to score six unanswered runs and even up the ALCS 2-2 with a 6-4 victory.

After six terrific innings from McCullers, the Yankees poured it on the Astros' relievers, scoring six unanswered runs to make a huge comeback and beat the Astros in Game 4 of the ALCS.

Sonny Gray got the game started with two quick outs before walking Jose Altuve on four pitches. Carlos Correa followed and grounded out to end the top of the first. McCullers started with an efficient inning, retiring all three Yankees in order on 10 pitches ending the scoreless first inning.

Carlos Beltran recorded the first hit of the game with a two-out double to right field in the top of the second but was left stranded after a fly out by Marwin Gonzalez to end the half inning. McCullers continued to look strong in the bottom half, getting his second strikeout and getting another 1-2-3 inning to send the 0-0 game to the third inning.

In the top of the third, Gray hit Brian McCann with a pitch making him a leadoff runner but ended up avoiding any damage after two groundouts, one for a double play to end the half inning on just 8 pitches.  Todd Frazier hit a one-out bloop single to center field in the bottom of the inning to give the Yankees their first hit of the game, but was left stranded to leave the game tied up at 0 going into the fourth.

Correa reached on a fielding error by Starlin Castro with one out in the top of the fourth then moved to second on a wild pitch by Gray, but was left there after a strikeout and fly out. Lance McCullers issued a leadoff walk to Aaron Judge in the bottom of the inning but fought back with two popouts and a weird pickoff of Aaron Judge who went past second during the flyball, never touched second going back to first, was called safe, then thrown out at second again to end the inning, leaving the game scoreless.

Gray put the Astros down quickly again in the top of the fifth, including two strikeouts. McCullers issued another leadoff walk in the bottom of the inning but again worked around it with a double play and groundout, keeping the scoreless pitcher's duel going into the sixth.

George Springer led off the sixth with a walk, followed by Josh Reddick reaching base on catcher's interference, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Joe Girardi made the call to the bullpen after Gray threw a first-pitch ball to Altuve, bringing in David Robertson to try and avoid the first run of the game. Altuve walked, loading the bases with no outs for Correa. Correa struck out, bringing up Yuli Gurriel who knocked a ball down the third-base line, clearing the bases before he got caught between second and third for the second out, but still giving the Astros the big 3-0 lead. Lance McCullers continued his dominant game in the bottom of the inning, putting the Yankees down 1-2-3.

Chad Green pitched the top of the seventh for the Yankees, allowing a one-out double to Gonzalez who then came around to score on another fielding error by Castro, extending the Astros lead to 4-0. McCullers came back our for the seventh but left a ball over the plate which Judge hammered out to center field to make the score 4-1, bringing A.J. Hinch out for a call to the bullpen. Chris Devenski took the mound but gave up a triple to Didi Gregorius who scored on a sac fly by Gary Sanchez to cut the Astros lead in half and make it 4-2. Devenski walked Greg Bird next, bringing Hinch back out to call on Joe Musgrove. Alex Bregman made an incredible stop and throw on a groundball down the third-base line for the second out, followed by a popout to finally end the inning and keep the Astros ahead.

Green returned for the top of the eighth and was able to get a quick inning, retiring the Astros in order on 9 pitches. Musgrove struggled in the bottom half, giving up back-to-back no-out singles, resulting in Ken Giles coming in to try and get the last six outs. Giles started with a groundout, which scored Todd Frazier from third, bringing the Yankees within one run at 4-3. Aaron Judge followed and hit a ball off the left field wall, scoring the tying run to make it 4-4. Gary Sanchez gave the Yankees their first lead of the night, scoring two on a double to make it a 6-4 game, leading to another call to the bullpen after an intentional walk to Greg Bird. Luke Gregerson came in and issued a walk to load the bases, but was able to avoid any further damage with two groundouts to end the disaster of an eighth inning.

The Yankees turned to their closer, Aroldis Chapman, in the top of the ninth, who got two strikeouts and a fly out to save the 6-4 win and make the ALCS a best out of three for the remaining three games.

Game 5: Tomorrow's first pitch will be in the early 4:08 PM Central time slot again, and can be seen on FS1. The pitching matchup is expected to be a rematch of Game 1 with Dallas Keuchel going for Houston and Masahiro Tanaka for New York. The Astros will hope to get a similar outcome to Game 1 where Keuchel dominated the Yankees over seven scoreless innings including 10 strikeouts while Tanaka allowed two runs in his six innings as the Astros went on to win that game 2-1.

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More changes are coming in MLB. Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images.

Ronald Acuña Jr. and Corbin Carroll just got a little more dangerous. Same for Bobby Witt Jr., Elly De La Cruz and the rest of baseball's fastest players.

Major League Baseball wants umpires to crack down on obstruction, and the commissioner's office outlined plans during a call with managers this week. MLB staff also will meet managers in person during spring training to go over enforcement.

The increased emphasis is only on the bases and not at home plate. The focus is on infielders who drop a knee or leg down in front of a bag while receiving a throw, acting as a deterrence for aggressive baserunning and creating an increased risk of injuries.

“I think with everything, they’re trying to make the game a little safer to avoid some unnecessary injuries," Phillies shortstop Trea Turner said Friday at the team's facility in Florida. “The intentions are always good. It comes down to how it affects the players and the games. I’m sure there will be plays where one team doesn’t like it or one team does.”

With more position players arriving at spring training every day, the topic likely will come up more and more as teams ramp up for the season.

“We'll touch on that. We'll show them some video of what’s good and what’s not,” Texas Rangers manager Bruce Bochy said. “You know, it’s going to be a little adjustment.”

Making obstruction a point of emphasis fits in with an ongoing effort by MLB to create more action. Obstruction calls are not reviewable, which could lead to some disgruntled players and managers as enforcement is stepped up, but it also means it won't create long replay deliberations.

A package of rule changes last season — including pitch clocks, bigger bases and limits on defensive shifts and pickoff attempts — had a dramatic effect. There were 3,503 stolen bases in the regular season, up from 2,486 in 2022 and the most since 1987.

MLB changed a different baserunning rule this offseason, widening the runner’s lane approaching first base to include a portion of fair territory. MLB also shortened the pitch clock with runners on base by two seconds to 18 and further reducing mound visits in an effort to speed games.

“Last year, you know, a lot of our preparation was around like, especially just the unknown of the clock and making sure like we’re really buttoned up on that," New York Yankees manager Aaron Boone said. "These guys are so used to it in so many ways that sometimes I even forget.”

Increased enforcement could lead to more action on the basepaths. But a significant element of MLB's motivation is injury prevention.

Top players have hurt hands or wrists on headfirst slides into bases blocked by a fielder. White Sox slugger Luis Robert Jr. sprained his left wrist when he slid into Jonathan Schoop's lower left leg on a steal attempt during an August 2022 game against Detroit.

“It’s been happening for a while. It’s been getting out of control," Boston Red Sox manager Alex Cora said. “I know some of the players complained about it the last two years.”

While acknowledging his reputation as a significant offender, Phillies second baseman Bryson Stott didn't sound too worried about his play.

“We like to fight for outs at second base,” he said. "It’s never on purpose, blocking the base. For me, or someone covering second to the shortstop side, it’s a natural move for your knee to go down to reach the ball. It’s never intentional. I guess we’ll figure out how to maneuver around that.”

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