ALCS GAME 4: RED SOX 8, ASTROS 6

Astros come up short in Game 4, lose to Red Sox 8-6, trail in ALCS 3-1

This play cost the Astros big time. Bob Levey/Getty Images

After a controversial call early in the game potentially erased two runs from Houston, both teams went back-and-forth with the Red Sox ultimately coming out ahead, edging out the Astros 8-6 to win the last three games and take a commanding 3-1 lead in the ALCS. The Red Sox are now one win away from eliminating Houston and moving on to the World Series.

Charlie Morton did not get far into Game 4, going just two and one-third innings during which he allowed three runs on three hits with two walks. The bullpen behind him too would fall victim to Boston's potent offense, allowing five more runs. For the Astros, George Springer and Tony Kemp hit solo home runs, Carlos Correa drove in two runs, and Jose Altuve and Josh Reddick each had an RBI as well in the loss.

The Red Sox were able to once again get runs in the first inning to set the tone their way early, getting the best of Morton in the top of the first inning. Morton hit Betts to start the game, walked J.D. Martinez with one out, then allowed a two-RBI single to Rafael Devers with two outs to give Boston the quick 2-0 lead. Springer, moved down to second in the lineup behind Alex Bregman, hit a one-out single in the bottom of the inning off of Rick Porcello. Altuve was up next, and drilled a ball to right field that made it into the first row, but Mookie Betts was able to leap high enough to contest the ball with a fan in the front row, and what arguably should have been ruled and left as a home run was instead ruled fan interference which stayed that way after a review. So instead of tying the game, the Astros would end up empty-handed in the inning, leaving it a 2-0 deficit. 

Morton had a much smoother top of the second, working around a two-out walk to keep Boston from scoring any more runs. In the bottom of the inning, Reddick led off with a double, allowing Correa to trim the Red Sox lead to one run with an RBI-single off of Porcello to make it a 2-1 game. Porcello was able to get the next three batters in order to stop the threat there, though.

Andrew Benintendi missed a solo home run by just a foot or so to lead off the top of the third, but instead, it would be a double off the wall. He would move to third on another ball that Martin Maldonado let get past him, then scored on an RBI-double by Xander Bogaerts that would end Morton's night early, and bring in Josh James from the bullpen, who was able to get the last two outs of the inning.  Springer hit a no-replay-needed dinger to lead off the bottom of the inning, bringing the Astros back within one run at 3-2. Altuve was next and hit one just short of a home run himself, off the top of the left field wall, but stayed on second for two outs before  Reddick came through with another hit on the night, an RBI-single to tie the game 3-3 before Porcello could end the inning. 

Josh James continued to throw heat in the top of the fourth, getting a couple of outs before a walk resulted in a caught stealing by Maldonado who cannoned a ball to second for the third out. Kemp gave Houston their first lead of the game, finally, with a one-out solo home run to make it 4-3 Houston in the bottom of the inning. 

Just like in the third inning, it was Benintendi getting a double that set up another score, a two-out RBI single by Bogaerts that made it 4-4 off of James who remained in the game to eat up some innings. Porcello's night was done after four innings, with Joe Kelly coming in from Boston's bullpen to pitch the bottom of the fifth, and allowed a one-out single to Yuli Gurriel who then moved to second on a wild pitch. Correa was up with two outs and a chance to put Houston back ahead and came through with his second RBI of the night, a single to make it 5-4 Astros. 

James continued on in the top of the sixth and after a two-out double allowed a two-run go-ahead home run to Jackie Bradley Jr. to put Boston back in front 6-5. In the bottom of the inning, Eduardo Rodriguez started the inning but was quickly pulled after a leadoff walk to Tony Kemp, with the Red Sox going to Ryan Brasier to face Bregman. Brasier would win the battle, and the next two as well, to get three outs to strand Kemp and maintain the one-run lead.

Ryan Pressly took over for Houston in the top of the seventh but was unable to get his usual dominant inning, instead, he loaded the bases with two outs, prompting A.J. Hinch to go to Lance McCullers Jr., who walked in a run before getting the final out. Brasier returned for a second inning in the bottom of the seventh, but it was Marwin Gonzalez who won the first at-bat with a bloop single to lead things off. Brasier was able to get the next two outs on fly balls, then Carlos Correa hit a double to the right-field corner to put runners on second and third and bring in another reliever for Boston, Matt Barnes. Barnes would face the pinch-hitting Tyler White and strike him out looking to end the inning. 

McCullers Jr. was back on the mound in the top of the eighth and allowed a one-out single to Betts, who moved to second on yet another wild pitch, then scored on an RBI single from J.D. Martinez to extend the lead to 8-5. In the bottom of the inning, Boston went to closer Craig Kimbrel. Kemp led off the inning for a single but got thrown out trying to advance to second on a perfect throw from Betts for the first out. Bregman went to first on a hit-by-pitch, then to third on a one-out double by Springer. Altuve was next, and scored Bregman on an RBI-groundout to make it 8-6, but left Springer on second with two outs. Springer would steal third, but get left stranded there as Kimbrel would get a strikeout of Gonzalez to end the inning. 

Tony Sipp started in the top of the ninth, but after issuing a one-out walk then single was pulled for Collin McHugh. McHugh was able to get the final two outs thanks to an amazing diving catch from Reddick to keep it a two-run game. Kimbrel was tasked with a six-out save by coming back out for the bottom of the ninth but struggled to find the zone walking back-to-back batters with one out, bringing the go-ahead run to the plate in Brian McCann. McCann flew out to right field for the second out, but Kimbrel would walk Kemp next to load the bases, bringing up Bregman. Bregman came out swinging, lining a ball to left field, but Benintendi would play the hero, making a diving catch to save the game for the Red Sox.

Game 5: The final game in Houston, and possibly the series, will be tonight at 7 p.m. Central, and can be seen again on TBS. We know that it will be ace Justin Verlander going for Houston, who was a part of Houston's only win of this series so far in Game 1. Boston's starter has not yet been named, as it's uncertain if David Price will be available after warming up in the bullpen during the late stages of Game 4. In any case, the Astros will have to win three straight to take the series and advance, and this is likely their easiest matchup of the possible remaining three games.

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ROCKETS BEAT THUNDER

Rockets blast Thunder in home opener, 124-91

Rockets take care of business in home opener. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

The Houston Rockets had an impressive outing versus the Oklahoma City Thunder after an embarrassing loss against the Minnesota Timberwolves Wednesday night. They took care of business at home on Friday night, which was a surprising blowout. The Rockets didn't have to worry about Karl-Anthony Towns screaming at Alperen Sengun or Anthony Edwards telling Coach Silas to call a timeout. Instead, they took their frustrations out on the Thunder (another younger core).

"We responded and bounced back from that game 1," Silas said. "I wouldn't say it was taking anything out. It was just learning and applying to what you learn and that's going to be us this year. Applying to what you learn and getting better and having some games like we had the other day. Veteran teams have some games when they don't play as well they want."

Christian Wood led the way, as he controlled the paint on all aspects with rebounding and putbacks. He played an incredible game after having a poor performance versus the Timberwolves. Silas showed complete trust in allowing Wood to open sets, as he walked the ball down the court several times, and in transition too. Wood became aggressive on the perimeter with open shooting and tough shots, and long strides towards the rim. He finished the night with 31 points and 13 rebounds off 66 percent shooting from the field.

The young core for the Thunder had a tough night defending Wood from every aspect. Hopefully, he keeps this play up. Silas loved the space that was created throughout the game for Wood, which included the help from Eric Gordon, as he continued to play better. Wood continues to develop underneath the Silas umbrella. He had a great feel for off-the-dribble shooting a few times. Wood becomes more dangerous when space is created on the court.

"It allows me to show what I can do. It allows the floor to be open and I can create for other guys and create for myself," Wood said.

As Gordon continues to impress, his teammate Kevin Porter Jr was amazed with his performance.

Gordon looked marvelous inside and outside of the paint, as it looked like a time ripple. The younger guards of the Thunder had a tough time staying in front of Gordon. His size and strength gave the Thunder a huge problem. Gordon is shooting the ball better too, as he is shooting the three-ball at 70 percent this season. Although it's a small sample size, Gordon is trying to overcome his shooting struggles from last year. Gordon finished with 22 points on 66 percent shooting versus the Thunder.

"EG is the biggest part of this squad," Porter said. He comes in and just scores. We need somebody off the bench to do that. He is our guy when me and J come out, it's EG time and he knows that, and comes in aggressive. So much energy on the bench, and we need that every night from him if we want a chance to win."

As I recently mentioned Porter, his facilitation did look better versus the Thunder than the Timberwolves. Porter had nine turnovers in his first game but managed to have two Friday night. He made great slip passes and found open teammates in the open corner. Porter forced a good number of passes versus the Timberwolves but looked more relaxed Friday night. The hardest position in the NBA is the point guard position, but Silas will not allow Porter to fail. Instead of nine turnovers, Porter dished out nine assists. Silas said:

"Bounce back right, going from nine turnovers to nine assists… I think he had two turnovers tonight, which is great. He is making plays for his teammates, and he was really focused."

Porter's shiftiness and creative ability allowed his teammates to get open looks near the rim. He had 18 points because of his step-back threes and first step going towards the basket. Thankfully, Porter is a great ball handler, which confuses defenders on different spots on the court. It's almost like watching a ballerina skate on ice in the Olympics. Hopefully, his confidence continues to get better throughout the year. Porter shot the three-ball at 50 percent tonight. Efficiency is key for Porter this year.

"I'm just trying to let the game slow down," Porter said. "I had a lot of turnovers last game and I just wanted to piggyback and learn from them and learn from some of my forced passes and reads. And sometimes I still force it a little bit. My guys hate that, and sometimes I'm still passive and I'm working on that. When to pass and score and bounce it out, and tonight I felt like I did a good job of that."

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