The Astros are one win away from the AL pennant

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: Houston takes commanding 3-1 ALCS lead with Game 4 win

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The Astros are now one win away from advancing to the World Series. Houston took ALCS Game 4 against the Yankees in New York on Thursday, winning 8-3 with big home runs from George Springer and Carlos Correa. The win comes after taking the first of three games in the Bronx on Tuesday before inclement weather postponed Game 4 from Wednesday to Thursday. The victory is the third straight for the Astros after falling 0-1 in the series with a Game 1 loss. Here is a recap of the game:

Final Score: Astros 8, Yankees 3.

Series: Astros lead 3-1.

Winning Pitcher: Ryan Pressly.

Losing Pitcher: Masahiro Tanaka.

Springer connects for a huge home run early

Houston's offense would get out to a slow start in ALCS Game 4, going without a hit in the first two innings against Masahiro Tanaka before putting together a big third. Robinson Chirinos started the inning with a walk, and then Josh Reddick followed with a single to put two on base. That flipped the order over, back to George Springer, who would take advantage of the baserunners with a three-run home run to give Houston a 3-1 lead.

Greinke turns early trouble into a decent start

Zack Greinke was in trouble early in ALCS Game 4. After a four-pitch walk to start the bottom of the first, he would go on to allow a one-out single then two-out walk to load the bases. His struggles with the strike zone continued, issuing a bases-loaded walk to give the Yankees an early 1-0 lead.

He would recover and settle in over the following innings, allowing just one baserunner through the second, third, and fourth innings. In the bottom of the fifth, he allowed a one-out single before a missed strike call by the home plate umpire turned into an eventual walk to Aaron Judge. With the go-ahead run coming to the plate, A.J. Hinch would call on his bullpen to bring in Ryan Pressly to finish the inning.

Pressly would issue a walk to load the bases before getting huge back-to-back strikeouts to strand all three runners and maintain Houston's 3-1 lead. It also put Greinke's line final: 4.1 IP, 3 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 0 HR.

Correa blows it open for another big ALCS moment as Astros pull away

In the top of the sixth, a leadoff error put Alex Bregman on board and ended Tanaka's night. First out of New York's bullpen was Chad Green, who allowed a one-out single to Yordan Alvarez to put two runners on base. That set up the second three-run home run of the night, this time by Carlos Correa, giving him another big scoring hit in this ALCS and pushing Houston's lead to 6-1.

With the five-run lead, the Astros turned to Josh James for the bottom of the sixth. He would throw six straight balls to start his appearance, issuing a walk before giving up a two-run home run to cut the lead to 6-3. He would eventually get through the inning, sending the 6-3 game to the seventh. Will Harris took over in the bottom of the seventh and was able to retire the Yankees 1-2-3 in a quick frame. In the top of the eighth, the Astros re-extended their lead after a leadoff double by Alex Bregman, who moved to third and then scored on back-to-back defensive errors on groundballs by the Yankees, making it a four-run game.

Joe Smith was the next reliever out for Houston in the bottom of the eighth, but after two outs would have an error put a runner on second, prompting a call to bring in Roberto Osuna to try and cover four outs. Osuna would get the final out to finish off the eighth, then in the top of the ninth, Michael Brantley would hit a sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 8-3. In the bottom of the ninth, Osuna returned and finished off the win with a scoreless inning.

Up Next: Game 5, initially scheduled for Thursday night, will get started on Friday at 6:08 PM Central. With the postponement of Wednesday's game shifting Games 4 and 5 back a day, it allows a pitching matchup of Justin Verlander for Houston going up against James Paxton, a rematch of Game 2. Verlander will look to repeat or improve upon his success in that game where he went 6.2 innings of two-run baseball, while Paxton was removed after 2.1 innings where he allowed a run on four hits. With a win, Houston will advance to their second World Series in three years.

The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

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Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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