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.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Composite photo by Jack Brame

As things continue to relax as far as the COVID-19 pandemic is concerned, a return to a semblance of normalcy seems imminent. The NBA has some parameters in place for a potential return. Training camps are set to open late this month and the season is supposed to open July 31. Whether that's the rumored Disney-centered one-stop shop or another form, they have a plan in place to return. There's also no argument between the league and players going back and forth about money either (MLB could learn a lesson here).

So when it comes to the potential return, how does that fare for the local team? The Rockets were 40-24 and tied for the fifth seed in the West when the season was shut down. Since they're getting ready to return potentially, we need to be looking at what chances they may have in making a run in the playoffs towards an NBA title.



Harden's new physique

According to his new trainer, James Harden has done more cardio workouts and lost some weight. Specifically, he's done more football player workouts as opposed to basketball player workouts. There was a pic of Harden floating around showing an obvious loss of weight. His new-found cardio and weight loss could mean more late-game and late-season success for Harden and the Rockets.

Westbrook's edge

Russell Westbrook has a competitive fire that can't be put out. It's like one of those never-ending burning torches you see at monuments. He wants nothing more than to prove he's a winner on a high level. Given that he's reunited with a long time friend in Harden, his competitive nature could help fill the gap where Harden may lack. These two have proven they can coexist very well this season. Now could be their time to take surge.

Small-ball

When the Rockets traded Clint Capela, they fully committed to small-ball. There were times they didn't have a guy in the lineup over 6'5. The tallest guy that gets regular time is roughly 6'8. The smaller, quicker lineup is an advantage on the offensive end, but can be a huge liability on the defensive end. Given the stoppage and restart of the season, it could help them. Suppose other teams are sluggish and can't get their chemistry straight. Houston's advantage is that they go through one or two guys and eat off their shooting. Shooting can be worked on during times like these, whereas other aspects of your game can't.


I'm not saying the Rockets have a built-in advantage, but they have as good a shot as they've ever had in the past. The field is wide open to any team that's in the playoff hunt. No team will have a built-in advantage over others. With the Rockets' unique brand of ball, they may be able to make a run at a title this season. Couple that with Harden's weight loss and Westbrook's competitive nature, it could be very interesting. Whenever the NBA comes back this season, which I believe they will, I think this team has a legit shot at winning it all.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome