Bullpen falters as Dodgers tie series 2-2

The Dodgers crushed the Astros bullpen. Getty Images

The Astros' bullpen once again fails the team after a quiet offensive night, allowing the Dodgers to put up five runs in a ninth inning that started in a 1-1 tie. The series is now tied 2-2.

George Springer and Alex Bregman hit solo home runs for Houston, but it was Ken Giles and Jose Musgrove who blew the game in the top of the ninth in the 6-2 loss to the Dodgers. It was the first loss at home for the Astros this postseason.

Game 4 got underway with a leadoff single by Chris Taylor off of Charlie Morton in the top of the first. Morton was able to work around it, though, thanks to Brian McCann getting the third out of the inning by throwing Taylor out trying to steal second. Alex Wood started strong with a 1-2-3 inning in the bottom half to keep the first inning scoreless.

In the top of the second, Morton was able to put the Dodgers down in order on just 9 pitches with a flyout and two groundouts. Wood worked around a leadoff walk of Carlos Correa getting a double play and groundout to keep the game tied 0-0 going into the third.

Morton continued to look strong early, getting another 1-2-3 inning in the top of the third including two strikeouts. Wood issued a one-out walk to Marwin Gonzalez in the bottom of the inning but worked around it getting a strikeout and groundout to send the scoreless game to the fourth.

Morton continued to cruise in the top of the fourth, getting two strikeouts and a groundout on 8 pitches to retire the Dodgers in order. Wood was also efficient in the bottom of the inning, getting another 1-2-3 inning as the pitcher's duel continued, leaving the game at 0-0 going into the fifth.

In the fifth, Morton continued to shine, getting two more strikeouts to bring his total to seven during another three up, three down half inning. Wood kept pace in the bottom of the inning, putting the Astros down in order again sending the scoreless and combined one-hit game to the sixth inning.

Morton had a pitch get away from him in the top of the sixth, hitting Austin Barnes to put the leadoff batter on base for the Dodgers. Barnes moved to third on a one-out single by Kike Hernandez but was thrown out as Alex Bregman played a ground ball perfectly to freeze Hernandez trying to run home, followed by a flyout to end the threat and keep the Dodgers off the board. George Springer not only recorded the first hit of the night for the Astros in the bottom of the inning but put the first run on the board with a two-out solo home run to the Crawford Boxes, giving the Astros a 1-0 lead and ending the night for Wood. Brandon Morrow took over on the mound for the Dodgers and was able to get the last out of the inning, sending the 1-0 game to the seventh.

Bregman started the top of the seventh with yet another great play, knocking down a ground ball from Justin Turner and lasering a throw to first base for the first out. Cody Bellinger hit a one-out double to the left-center corner, ending Charlie Morton's great night and bringing in Will Harris. Harris was able to get a flyout for the second out but gave up an RBI single to Logan Forsythe to tie the game 1-1 before getting a groundout for the third out. Morrow returned to the mound for the bottom of the seventh and had a three up, three down half inning to keep the game tied.

Chris Devenski was next out of the Astros' bullpen and pitched the top of the eighth, a 1-2-3 half inning to keep the game tied. Tony Watson pitched the bottom of the inning for the Dodgers and he too was able to record a hitless inning, sending the game to the ninth knotted up at 1.

Ken Giles went to the mound for the top of the ninth and allowed a leadoff single to Corey Seager, then walked Justin Turner to put runners on first and second with no outs. Cody Bellinger was up next and gave the Dodgers their first lead of the night on an RBI single to make it 2-1 and give the struggling Giles the hook in favor of Joe Musgrove. Musgrove entered with runners on second and third with no outs and gave up a one-out sac fly to Barnes to make it a 3-1 game before allowing Los Angeles to blow the game open on a three-run homer by Joc Pederson to extend the lead to 6-1. Kenley Jansen pitched the bottom of the night for the Dodgers and despite a two-out solo home run by Alex Bregman was able to finish the 6-2 loss for the Astros.

Game 5: First pitch of Game 5 is scheduled for 7:20 PM tomorrow night from Minute Maid Park. The pitching matchup will be a rematch of Game 1 which put Dallas Keuchel for the Astros against Clayton Kershaw for the Dodgers. Kershaw won the battle in Game 1, going seven innings of three-hit, one run baseball in the Dodgers' win while Keuchel allowed three runs over six and two-thirds. Kershaw is one of the best pitchers in baseball, period, but Keuchel is historically dominant at home. The Astros will look to regain the series lead with a win in the last home game tomorrow night and head to Los Angeles in need of one more to win the series.

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Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

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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