Houston came through late

Astros use late offensive surge to take ALCS Game 4 and even series with Red Sox

When they needed it most, Houston's offense finally sprung to life in ALCS Game 4 in Boston to even up the series. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Although not technically an elimination game, down 2-1, and with the knowledge of the lack of success of teams that go down 3-1 in a best-of-seven series, the Astros knew they needed a win in ALCS Game 4 in a big way. Although they would get the first highlight of the night, things shifted back Boston's way until, in the final two innings, Houston would overtake the Red Sox for the crucial win.

Final Score: Astros 9, Red Sox 2

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): tied 2-2

Winning Pitcher: Kendall Graveman

Losing Pitcher: Nathan Eovaldi

Both teams get first-inning homers before runs become scarce

Houston got what they needed in the top of the first inning to grab the early momentum to shake off the two lopsided losses, courtesy of Alex Bregman. He launched a solo homer with two outs to put the Astros in front 1-0, sending Zack Greinke to the mound with a lead. After two quick outs by Greinke in the bottom of the first, though, Boston would quickly shift things back their way, getting a walk followed by a go-ahead two-run homer to make it 2-1 after the first frame.

Things stayed in a stalemate there into the late innings, and over that span, Houston tried to navigate getting a full game out of their strained bullpen and pitching staff. After getting through the first, Greinke would face just two batters in the second, getting one out while allowing a walk, making it through Boston's lineup one time but only getting four outs from them. Brooks Raley was first out of the Astros' bullpen, getting the final two outs of the second inning.

Javier eats up much-needed innings as the game stays close

While the Astros continued to be stymied at the plate by Nick Pivetta, they handed the ball to Cristian Javier, starting in the bottom of the third, hoping to get a few innings out of him. He did his job well, erasing a walk in the third, stranding a one-out triple in the fourth and a one-out double in the fifth. Javier stayed on the mound for the bottom of the sixth to face one more batter, issuing a walk before Phil Maton would come in and sit down three Boston batters in a row to keep it a one-run game.

Astros roar back to take Game 4 and tie series 2-2

Kendall Graveman took over in the bottom of the seventh, and against the 2-4 hitters in Boston's lineup, was able to get a 1-2-3 inning to keep the score put. On the first pitch of the top of the eighth, Jose Altuve finally gave Houston's offense a spark, drilling it for a game-tying solo homer over the Green Monster to make it 2-2.

Graveman kept going in the bottom of that inning, getting two outs to make it five in a row sat down before issuing a two-out walk, which he would erase by getting the third out against the next batter as the tied game went to the ninth. Boston opted to bring in Game 2 starter Nathan Eovaldi out of their bullpen in the top of the ninth, and he was met with a leadoff double by Carlos Correa to put the go-ahead run in scoring position.

Still on second after two outs and an intentional walk to Yuli Gurriel, Correa looked to Jason Castro to try and come through and bring him home. He did so, getting an RBI single to give the Astros their first lead since that homer back in the top of the first inning and leaving runners on the corners. Jose Altuve loaded the bases against Eovaldi, working a walk as Boston would move on to another reliever to try and end the threat.

Instead, Michael Brantley blew it open on the first pitch he saw, getting a bases-clearing double to extend Houston's lead to four runs. He would score as well, as the runs kept coming on RBI singles by Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker and another on an error, making it a seven-run frame and a 9-2 lead. Already warmed up, Ryan Pressly entered in the bottom of the inning to finish things off, and despite a couple of two-out singles, he would wrap up the massive win for Houston.

Up Next: ALCS Game 5 will get started earlier on Wednesday, with a start time of 4:08 PM Central from Fenway Park in Boston. While not confirmed, the expected pitching matchup is a rematch of Game 1 with Chris Sale for the Red Sox going against Framber Valdez for the Astros.

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The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

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