ALCS Game 4

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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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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