Houston is one step closer to the ultimate comeback

Astros stay hot, force winner-take-all Game 7 by winning ALCS Game 6

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Not going down without a fight, the once 0-3 record for the Astros in the ALCS improved to 2-3 after a big walk-off home run by Carlos Correa to end Game 5 and force Game 6. One more win and they'd force a decisive Game 7, where they could join the 2004 Boston Red Sox as the only two teams to erase a 3-0 deficit in a best-of-seven series.

They would do just that, with their offense coming alive in the middle innings to take over the game to back up another impressive start by Framber Valdez. It sets up a winner-take-all Game 7 on Saturday. Here's how Game 6 unfolded:

Final Score: Astros 7, Rays 4.

Series: tied 3-3.

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez.

Losing Pitcher: Blake Snell.

Rays score first, Astros answer back with four in the fifth

After a scoreless first inning on both sides, it was Tampa Bay who started the scoring in the bottom of the second. Despite Valdez starting hot and striking out three of the first four batters, he allowed a one-out single that would come around and score on a two-out RBI-double to put the Rays up 1-0.

That score held until the top of the fifth, when a leadoff walk by Yuli Gurriel followed by a single by Aledmyz Diaz would spell the end for Blake Snell, whose manager would take him out to try and get his trusted bullpen into the game. Instead, Houston would move the runners on a sac bunt by Martin Maldonado then bring both in to take a 2-1 lead on a two-RBI single by George Springer. That opened the floodgates, with Jose Altuve driving in another on the next pitch, an RBI-double to the left-field wall, followed later by an RBI-single by Carlos Correa, making it a four-run inning and a 4-1 Astros lead.

Valdez impresses again and leaves in line for the win

Kyle Tucker would make it a four-run lead in the top of the sixth, leading the inning off with a solo home run to make it 5-1. Framber Valdez continued his impressive night in the bottom of the inning, getting his fifth scoreless inning and wrapping up a one-run gem, leaving in line for the win. His final line: 6.0 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 0 HR, 101 P.

Houston's offense kept rolling into the top of the seventh, when Jose Altuve would start it off with a single, moved to second on a passed ball, then scored on an RBI-single by Michael Brantley. Tucker would later bring in his second run in as many innings, getting a sac fly to make it a six-run game at 7-1.

Houston forces Game 7

With Valdez's night done, Andre Scrubb would come in for the top of the seventh with the big lead. He was met with a solo homer by Manuel Margot to cut it to 7-2, then was only able to get two outs while putting two more on base before Dusty Baker would bring in Blake Taylor to finish the inning. Despite loading the bases on three straight walks to start the top of the eighth, the Astros would follow it with three strikeouts in a row to stand all three runners, keeping it a 7-2 game.

Cristian Javier would take over on the mound in the bottom of the inning, but after two strikeouts, he would issue a two-out walk to set up another home run to Margot, his second in as many innings, to trim the lead to 7-4. After a scoreless top of the ninth, the Astros would be forced to use closer Ryan Pressly in the three-run situation, his third appearance in as many days. He would come through with the save, finishing off the win as Houston evened the series to move one step closer to one of the ultimate comebacks in the sports world.

Up Next: It all comes down to this. The end of the road for one of these two teams comes after ALCS Game 7, which will start on Saturday at 7:37 PM Central, though that time could change if the Braves finish the NLCS Friday night. Though not announced, the expected pitching matchup mirrors Game 2, which was Lance McCullers Jr. for Houston and Charlie Morton for the Rays.

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The Astros play Game 1 of the ALDS Tuesday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

With a nod to Charles Dickens, October is the best of times (Astros) and the worst of times (Texans and Rockets) for Houston sports fans. At least this October.

October is the one month when all three of Houston’s major sports teams are guaranteed to be in full swing at the same time. It’s possible, if the Astros make the World Series that November will have all three teams in action, too. But let’s not jinx things.

The Astros start their playoff run Tuesday on TBS. Since the Yankees also play that day, also on TBS, we can assume the Astros will get the daytime slot, the Yankees in prime time. Now before Astros fans start screaming east coast bias, it really only applies to TV. Fun fact: no New York Met has ever won an MVP Award, and only one Yankee has won it in the past 37 years – Alex Rodriguez in 2005 and 2007. How’d that work out for him? Most important, a New York team has won the World Series only once in the past two decades – the Yankees in 2009.

The Astros could play as many as 15 more games in October, five in the Division Series, seven in the League Championship Series and three in the World Series before the calendar flips to November.

Meanwhile, the Texans plod on with three more games in October, and the Rockets have 11.

The winless Texans are at home against the Titans at NRG Stadium, on the road against the Jaguars and Raiders.

The Rockets, coming off the worst record in the NBA last season, have three games at home at Toyota Center and eight on the road.

This presents a problem of abundance, an embarrassment of riches, for Houston sports junkies. Who are you going to watch on TV? Which team will you pay to watch in person? Who are you rooting for the most? Whose jersey will you buy?

David Puddy is right, you “gotta support the team,” but who will own Houston this month?

What to do? If it’s true that nothing succeeds like success, and everybody loves a winner – it’s an obvious choice.

The Astros.

The Astros just completed their regular season with 106 wins, second most in franchise history, another American League West title, the best record in the American League and will have home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Even though fans had high hopes for the Astros entering 2022, the team smashed everybody’s expectations. Vegas put the Astros over/under wins at 92 games. The Astros seemingly flew by that number during spring training.

They are the first team in American League history to win 100 games in four of their last five full seasons. Not even Babe Ruth’s Yankees of the 1920s and 1930s did that. This core of Astros has won five of the last six American League West titles. They’ve played in three of the last five World Series. This is a dynasty right before our eyes. We’re witness to greatness. How ‘bout them Astros?

What a season it was. Who could have figured that 39-year-old Justin Verlander, out of action for two seasons after Tommy John surgery, would have a career year, a ridiculously skinny earned run average and the overwhelming pick for the Cy Young Award? Jose Altuve would return to a .300 batting average, Cristian Javier would lead the team in strikeouts, Yordan Alvarez would finish No. 2 between Aaron Judge and Mike Trout in OPS, and rookie Jeremy Pena would slug 22 home runs, the same number as Carlos Correa? Remember last offseason and cries of “pay the man!” Some of a team’s best deals are the ones they don’t make.

Strap yourself in for an October to remember. The storylines are endless. There’s bad blood between the Astros and the Yankees, between the Astros and Dodgers, between the Astros and boo birds in every stadium not named Minute Maid Park.

It’s going to be fun.

As for the Texans, Deshaun Watson returns to action Nov. 4 against the Texans here at NRG Stadium. And we’ll catch up with the Rockets when the NBA season starts for real on Christmas Day. But until then … play ball!

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