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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The Houston Rockets are on to phase two, and no they are not about to release a handful of movies like Marvel’s The Avengers, but instead have a new goal in mind — returning to the playoffs.

Houston officially introduced Ime Udoka as its 15th head coach in franchise history on Wednesday. Before Udoka uttered a single word, Rockets governor Tilman Fertitta made it clear they feel like they have a great pool of young talent that is ready to take the next step.

When combined with the plethora of cap space available to use in the offseason, the goal is to get back to the postseason, he said.

“There is nothing like cap space, which we have approximately $60 million available,” Fertitta said. “When you mix these new stars, new young stars with the free agents, I’m expecting a lot from these guys here [pointing at Udoka and general manager Rafael Stone]. That’s exciting and it is time to get on the right path.”

The Rockets have missed the NBA Playoffs for three straight seasons, and have won less than 22 games each year. Fertitta said when Houston lost James Harden in 2021, the organization made the decision to go young and stockpile talent instead of hovering in the middle of the pack of the league.

Now three years later, Fertitta and Stone believe the Rockets are ready to make a jump to competitiveness again, and Udoka is the right coach to lead the team.

Udoka, who led the Boston Celtics to the NBA Finals in his first and only season with the franchise in 2022, comes from Gregg Popovich’s San Antonio coaching staff. He spent seven seasons on the Spurs’ staff, the 2019-20 year with Brett Brown’s Philadelphia 76ers staff and 2020-21 with Steve Nash’s staff in Brooklyn.

Udoka’s coaching style will revolve around being upfront and honest with his players, he said. While Houston is one of the youngest teams in the NBA, he does not want that to be used as an excuse for bad habits and poor play, he added. His job is to expedite Houston’s development.

“Whether it is making the same mistakes, not making the right defensive assignments, poor shot selections, all that stuff has to be addressed, but also improved on,” Udoka said. “Understanding that we are going to take some lumps with our age and our youth, but my message to them is that is not an excuse.”

The elephant in the room on Wednesday was Udoka’s tumultuous exit from Boston. He was ultimately ousted from the Celtics organization for having an improper, intimate and consensual relationship with a female member of the team’s staff, which was a violation of the franchise’s code of conduct.

Udoka, Stone and Fertitta all addressed the situation.

Fertitta said Houston did its due diligence when deciding to hire Udoka. It was important for him to feel good about Udoka, and the NBA told him they saw no issues that would arise if the Rockets indeed hired him, Fertitta stated.

While on hiatus from the NBA, Udoka said he spent time taking leadership and sensitivity training, and he also went to therapy with his son to address the trust issues stemming from the improper relationship in Boston.

Ultimately, Fertitta, Stone and Udoka felt strongly about committing to each other.

The biggest message coming out of Udoka’s eventful news conference, which included Fertitta accidentally revealing the Rockets are working on opening a new $70 million practice facility in the Galleria area in the near future, was that all three parties are aligned with the vision of what needs to be done to turn the Rockets around.

For Udoka, alignment is essential for long-term success.

“I think it is the most crucial piece honestly,” Udoka said. “I came up for most of my NBA career as a player, and then obviously as a coach in the San Antonio system. I saw the symmetry between front office, ownership, and coaching staff down to the players. I think that is the only way it can truly work.”

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