Houston has a huge chance to tie the series

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

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

With an impressive showing in the first game in D.C. on Friday in World Series Game 3, the Astros were able to get back into the series and avoid going down 3-0 and instead made it a 2-1 deficit. That makes Game 4 pivotal for both teams, as a victory for the Nationals puts them back in the driver's seat, while a win for Houston would give them the upper hand for the rest of the series. Here is a quick look at Saturday's crucial game in this series:

Game Facts

When: Saturday, 7:07 p.m Central.

Where: Nationals Park - Washington, D.C.

TV: FOX.

Streaming: Fox Sports App.

Pitching matchup: Urquidy vs Corbin.

Series: Nationals lead 2-1.

Series schedule

Date & Time (Central)LocationPitching matchup
Game 1Nationals 5, Astros 4Minute Maid Park, Houston TXCole (L) vs Scherzer (W)
Game 2Nationals 12, Astros 3Minute Maid Park, Houston TXVerlander (L) vs Strasburg (W)
Game 3Astros 4, Nationals 1Nationals Park, Washington D.C.Greinke (ND) vs Sanchez (L)
Game 4Saturday 10/26, 7:07 PMNationals Park, Washington D.C.Urquidy vs Corbin
Game 5Sunday 10/27, 7:07 PMNationals Park, Washington D.C.Cole vs Scherzer+
Game 6*Tuesday, 10/29, 7:07 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXVerlander vs Strasburg+
Game 7*Wednesday 10/30, 7:08 PMMinute Maid Park, Houston TXGreinke vs Sanchez+

* If necessary
+ Projected Starters

Game Storylines

A massive opportunity for Houston

As stated earlier, this game is crucial on both sides. If Houston loses, they are down 3-1 and will have to win the final three games of the series. However, if they can steal another game on the road, then the odds shift back to being in their favor in a big way. Despite the horrible start to the series by losing the first two games at home, that's what this series could become: a best-of-three.

While the first two starts with Cole and Verlander on the mound did not go their way, they remain the two aces you want to have at your disposal in a best-of-three situation. They've already won their way to another start with Cole; now, they need to push the series back to Houston for at least another game to get to Verlander. With that hard-earned opportunity on the horizon, the Astros should do all they can to continue the momentum they created in Game 3 to stay in the win column.

How deep can Urquidy go?

Before they can start thinking about coming back to Houston with a chance to win the series, though, they'll have to take care of business on Saturday in what is expected to be a bullpen day. It starts with Jose Urquidy, who the Astros have given the nod as the starter in the game. After being in consideration to start ALCS Game 6, Houston's last bullpen day, the Astros instead sent Brad Peacock to the mound to start the game. Peacock would provide 1.2 innings in that game while allowing a run, while later in the game, Urquidy would impress with 2.2 innings while allowing just one run on a solo homer.

While the Astros will have all hands on deck in terms of their bullpen, it would be a massive benefit if Urquidy can come out hot and eat up several innings and into the middle innings or beyond. Not only would that improve their chances of winning Game 4, but it would also help keep their bullpen usage manageable for the rest of the series behind starts by Cole, Verlander, and Greinke, depending on how far the series goes.

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.

Houston accused of more wrongdoing

New report of illegal sign-stealing puts Astros back under scrutiny

Jason Behnken / Getty Images

Back in 2017, the Houston Astros could be considered the darlings of the MLB. They helped pull a Harvey-ravaged city out of despair and into a celebration in a matter of months with the acquisition of Justin Verlander and subsequent World Series victory. The young team full of potential suddenly had the attention of not only fans but other MLB clubs and the league's front office.

On Tuesday, that attention reared itself yet again in a severely negative way, with the Athletic reporting (subscription required) that former-Astro Mike Fiers was alleging and confirming that his former team used illegal means to steal signs in their 2017 championship season. Fiers, along with three other anonymous sources with the team in 2017, claims that the team used cameras and other technology to monitor opposing catchers to relay signs to batters in real-time. The Astros have released the following statement:

"Regarding the story posted by The Athletic earlier today, the Houston Astros organization has begun an investigation in cooperation with Major League Baseball. It would not be appropriate to comment further on this matter at this time."

While GM Jeff Luhnow had this to say:

Another negative blow to the team's reputation

This is not the first time the Astros have been under a microscope in recent years, the most recent being less than a month ago when assistant general manager Brandon Taubman taunted reporters in the Astros clubhouse following their ALCS series-clinching win. The Astros fumbled that event, coming out with a rebuttal against the reporter, which would eventually be retracted, and Taubman terminated from his employment.

Neither is this the first time the Astros have dealt with accusations of sign-stealing and other forms of cheating. In this year's ALCS, the Yankees complained about a "whistling" noise from Houston's dugout they believed to be a method of relaying pitches to batters at the plate. Also, in the 2018 postseason, the Astros found themselves under fire for having an employee taking photos of the opposing team's dugout.

It's just part of the game until it's not

Both pitch tipping and stealing signs are things that are nearly unavoidable in baseball. With the catcher having to relay a sign to the pitcher 60.5 feet away using his hands, the opposing team will inevitably try to decipher what's coming. The same is true of tipping, where if a pitcher has a tell before a specific pitch, that information will quickly spread through the dugout.

However, there is a line teams should not cross, and that comes by way of utilizing technology to aid further the ability to steal signs, and using that to give an immediate advantage to a batter amid an at-bat. The Astros are not the first team to be alleged of this type of grievance, as the Red Sox received a fine after utilizing a smartwatch to try and steal signs.

It's a widely known and accepted fact that teams will try anything within reason to get a leg up on their opponent. However, with technology ever improving both for organizations to use and be caught by, it's no surprise that this is becoming an issue that the MLB will have to deal with, and soon.

Ramifications could loom large

Will the Astros be found guilty and made an example of to deter other teams for trying similar tactics? It appears we will have to wait for the conclusion of this investigation to find out. While it may not be an indictment of the entire team, it will bring into question the integrity and character of many of the team.

Still, no matter the outcome, the report alone and continued negativity surrounding the Astros organization has made them villains of many, a role that many would not have expected this team to play if asked just two years ago.

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