Houston is in position to take 3-1 lead in the series

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: ALCS Game 4 Preview

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Getting a win on the road in the playoffs is a tough feat and doing it in the first game of a series in enemy territory with a hostile crowd excited to make a difference in the game, even more so. The Astros did that on Tuesday with the win at Yankee Stadium in ALCS Game 3 to take a 2-1 series lead behind a great start from Gerrit Cole and enough offense to get the job done.

Game 4, initially scheduled for Wednesday night, was postponed until Thursday night due to inclement weather, with Game 5 moving from Thursday to Friday. The shift in schedule sets up a stretch of possibly four consecutive days of games to conclude this series if all are needed. Shifting Games 4 and 5 back a day also opens up pitching options for both teams, with the Astros and Yankees avoiding what would have been a bullpen day on Wednesday and instead creates a rematch of Game 1 between Zack Greinke and Masahiro Tanaka. Here is a preview of Game 4:

Game Facts

When: Thursday, 7:08 p.m Central.

Where: Yankee Stadium - The Bronx, New York.

TV: FS1.

Streaming: Fox Sports App.

Pitching matchup: Zack Greinke vs Masahiro Tanaka.

Series: Astros lead 2-1.

Series schedule

Date & Time (Central)LocationPitching matchup
Game 1Yankees 7, Astros 0Minute Maid Park, Houston TXGreinke (L) vs Tanaka (W)
Game 2Astros 3, Yankees 2 (11 innings)Minute Maid Park, Houston TXVerlander (ND) vs Paxton (ND)
Game 3Astros 4, Yankees 1Yankee Stadium, Bronx NYCole (W) vs Severino (L)
Game 4Thursday 10/17, 7:08 PMYankee Stadium, Bronx NYGreinke vs Tanaka
Game 5Friday 10/18, 6:08 PMYankee Stadium, Bronx NYVerlander+ vs Paxton+
Game 6*Saturday 10/19, 7:08 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXTBD vs TBD
Game 7*Sunday 10/20, 6:38 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXTBD vs TBD

* If necessary
+ Projected Starters

Game Storylines

Houston needs more from Greinke

Zack Greinke lasted just eleven outs in ALDS Game 3 while giving up six runs to the Rays at Tropicana Field. Back at home for ALCS Game 1, he performed better, going six innings against these Yankees and allowing three earned runs over that span, which could have been enough to keep his team in the game if not for the offensive woes that would result in a shutout loss.

The Astros will need a better start than those first two from their new starter. After the loss to start the series, both Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole have managed to hold New York's bats in check. With a 2-1 lead, Houston must capitalize on the opportunity to move to 3-1 in this series and put them in need of just one more win over their last three with a start from Verlander and Cole in two of those.

That starts with Greinke, who will need to execute at the highest level and get some runs behind him, to beat out a Yankees lineup that will be out to even the series with a big offensive outing. Additionally, with a potential bullpen day awaiting them in Game 6 or 7, if the series advances that far, Houston will need as many innings as Greinke can provide them while keeping them ahead or within striking distance.

Alvarez and other Houston bats need to find a rhythm

After going 6-for-19 with one RBI in the ALDS, Yordan Alvarez has lost his rhythm at the plate in the ALCS. He's out to an 0-for-10 with six strikeouts in the first three games and has looked visibly frustrated in the process. A.J. Hinch shook up the lineup in Game 3, moving Alvarez down to sixth in the order behind Yuli Gurriel. While I think his incredible numbers in the regular season and contribution in the ALDS earns him some patience and trust, he's due for a big game to snap out of his mini-slump.

Another of Houston's big bats that could use a jump-start is George Springer. To his credit, he had the big home run in Game 2 of this series, which kept them in the game before the eventual walk-off. However, that's the only hit he's had this series, and he now sits 4-for-33 in what has been a mostly disappointing October for 2017's World Series MVP. He is someone, especially in the leadoff spot, that could do wonders for the lineup with a big game to set the tone and build momentum. Look for more offense out of the Astros as they try to wear down New York's pitching staff in these concluding games of the ALCS.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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