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.

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Game One Is Pivotal For Both Teams

ALWC Game 1 Preview: Astros vs. Twins

Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

It might not have been pretty, and may not have met pre-season expectations, especially with all the injuries and headwinds along the way. Yet, the Astros' regular-season was enough to get them into the playoffs, and as we are likely to find out with this aptly-named Wild Card Round, all it takes is a ticket to the dance.

A losing record at the end of the first 60 is now a thing of the past. Everyone starts 0-0, needing to take two of three against their opponent to move forward into the Divisional Series. Here's a quick breakdown and some facts about Houston's first game against the Minnesota Twins:

Game Facts

When: Tuesday, 1:00 PM Central

Where: Target Field - Minneapolis, Minnesota

TV: ABC

Streaming: ESPN App

Pitching Matchup: Zack Greinke vs. Kenta Maeda

Series: Tied 0-0.

Series Schedule

Date & Time (Central) Location Pitching Matchup
Game 1 Tue 9/29, 1:00 PM Target Field, Minneapolis Greinke vs. Maeda
Game 2 Wed 9/30, 12:00 PM Target Field, Minneapolis TBD vs. Berrios+
Game 3* Thu 10/1, TBD Target Field, Minneapolis TBD vs. Pineda+

* If necessary.
+ Projected starters.

Game Storylines

Did Houston pack their postseason bats?

Over the last three years, the Astros have started the playoffs with wins in their first game, and it may be in part due to one key component: scoring first via home runs. In 2017, it was an Alex Bregman solo homer off of Chris Sale in the first inning to start the scoring against the Red Sox. In 2018, it was Bregman again, this time a solo shot in the fourth off of Corey Kluber of the Indians. In 2019, it was Jose Altuve with a two-run bomb against Tyler Glasnow as they'd go on to take game one against the Rays.

Can they make it four straight years? If so, they'll have to do it against another formidable pitcher in Kenta Maeda, who allowed just nine home runs in his eleven regular-season starts, only two of which were at Target Field. Also, those three games mentioned earlier were at Minute Maid Park, where the Astros had the support of their home crowd, along with the comfort of their own stadium. This year, they'll start on the road, and in the now-normal audience of cardboard cutouts. Having said that, if they can get their signature score-starting home run in the top of the first by one of their key bats, that could very well set the momentum in their favor to upset the Twins.

Which Greinke will we see?

On September 3rd, Zack Greinke went six innings while allowing three runs to the Rangers, still coming away with a win to improve him to 3-0 with a 2.91 ERA. That was his eighth start of the season, two of which he went six or more innings without allowing a single run, including an eight-inning gem at home against the Rockies.

In his final four starts after that, Greinke went 0-3 with a 6.53 ERA over that span, allowing four, five, three, and three earned runs, respectively, and unable to go more than six innings in any of them. That finished his year at 3-3 with a 4.03 ERA, not exactly riding a high into the postseason. So, can he hit the reset button and deal as he did in the early parts of the season? Or, will the Twins, who own the sixth-most homers as a team in 2020, find a wrinkle against him early that they can exploit? The answer to that, along with what run support his offense provides him, will be one of the game's deciding factors.

I don't need to tell anyone the obvious here; in a best-of-three series, taking the first game will be pivotal for both sides. Winning the first game and only needing one more is a tremendously more advantageous position to be in, instead of needing to win two straight to advance. It sets up for an entertaining series and set of matchups across the league. Get your popcorn ready.

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

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