The Astros are headed back to the World Series. Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images.
The Houston Astros aimed to shut the door on the 2022 season for the New York Yankees in Game Four of the American League Championship Series, and it is exactly what they did. Houston defeated New York 6-5 to advance to its second straight World Series.
Houston battled all game long against the Yankees, who were determined to win to avoid the sweep. The Astros overcame multiple deficits, including a three-run early hole to come out victorious.
The final mistake for New York came at the top of the seventh inning. In what should have been at least one out on second baseman Jose Altuve, who was running to second base after a hit by shortstop Jeremy Peña, New York second baseman Gleyber Torres threw a bad feed to New York shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa, which resulted in the ball rolling into the outfield.
The error kept Altuve at second and got Peña to first base. Yordan Alvarez followed up by getting a ground ball single to right field that tied the game 5-5. The heart of Houston’s batting order continued to deliver for the Astros. Third baseman Alex Bregman singled on a line drive to right field that made it 6-5, a lead Houston never relinquished.
Houston first turned the game around in the third inning when catcher Martín Maldonado and Altuve got on base with back-to-back walks. The Astros trailed 3-0 entering the inning. The stage was set for Peña to become a game hero.
Peña was able to get into a 3-1 count on pitcher Nester Cortes, who seemed to be battling an injury that caused New York manager Aaron Boone and the team’s training staff to go check on him earlier in the inning. Peña launched a homer to left field that tied the game at three and left the Yankees stunned.
The play sucked the air out of New York’s fans at Yankee Stadium, ignited the Houston faithful in attendance, and was likely the play that ensured the rookie came away with the ALCS Most Valuable Player award. Cortes was then taken out of the game for pitcher Wandy Peralta. New York later stated Cortes had suffered a groin injury.
Peralta was unable to stop the bleeding for the Yankees. Yordan Alvarez doubled on a line drive to right field and Kyle Tucker moved him to third with a single. First baseman Yuli Gurriel delivered the go-ahead hit with a ground ball to right field that allowed Alvarez to score and gave the Astros a 4-3 lead.
Well, well, well.
How the turntables. pic.twitter.com/OQYXKfaGHu
— Houston Astros (@astros) October 24, 2022
Game Four started out ominous from a weather perspective and on the scoreboard. The first pitch didn’t get thrown until a roughly 90-minute delay due to drizzle and the threat of rain. Once the tarp came off the field and the game got rolling, it was the Yankees that jumped out on Houston pitcher Lance McCullers Jr. early.
McCullers struggled against the Yankees’ top of the order in the first inning, giving up three hits and two runs. McCullers’ issues continued in the second inning as he allowed New York shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa to get an inning-opening double.
After recording two outs, McCulllers walked Aaron Judge, which was followed by a double from Anthony Rizzo that scored Kiner-Falefa and made it 3-0 in favor of the Yankees. McCullers had runners on the bases all game long.
When it was all said and done, the 29-year-old pitcher went 5.0 innings, gave up eight hits and allowed four total runs, three of which were earned runs. McCullers also struck out six Yankees. Hector Neris took over in relief in the sixth inning. With two outs, Neris gave up a solo shot to Bader that gave New York a 5-4 lead.
Outside of the run allowed by Neris, Houston’s bullpen went the rest of the way without allowing a run. Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly combined to pitch 3.0 hitless innings and two strikeouts.
Overall, the ALCS saw various Astros star as heroes. In Game One, it was Peña, McCormick and Gurriel, who each homered against the Yankees. In Game Two it was Bregman, who delivered with a three-run homer that carried Houston past New York.
Game Three saw Cristian Javier pitch 5.1 innings giving up only one hit as he struck out five Yankees. Houston had five other pitchers make appearances in the game. They only allowed two hits and struck out six more New York batters. Offensively it was McCormick and Christian Vazquez, who accounted for four of Houston’s runs.
Game Four saw multiple players step up big again. Peña started the rally, Alvarez and Bregman finished it. More importantly, Altuve’s bat has appeared to have awoken. After going 0-for-25 to start the postseason, he got one hit in Game Three. Altuve added two more hits in Game Four.
Houston will now have a few days off until it hosts the Philadelphia Phillies for Game One of the World Series on Friday at Minute Maid Park.
“Another one!”- DJ Khaled
That's the first thing that came to mind when I heard the news of Tytus Howard being shut down for the season because of a knee injury. They've had more injuries on the offensive line this season than Nick Cannon has Father's Day cards. Almost every member of the offensive line has spent time on the injury report. Howard went down in the same game in which Juice Scruggs was finally on the active roster. He missed the first 10 games due to a hamstring injury. The irony of next man up has never been so in your face.
The other thing that came to mind was the soap opera As the World Turns.
Howard had just signed an extension this offseason. So did Laremy Tunsil and Shaq Mason. They drafted Juice Scruggs, and signed a few guys too. Those moves, along with other holdovers, were expected to fill out the depth chart. Then a rash of injuries struck. At one point, only one of the original five guys expected to start was playing! In fact, they beat the Steelers 30-6 with that backup offensive line!
One can't have the expectation of backups to perform as good as the starters. They're professionals and are on an NFL roster for a reason. However, the talent gap is evident. One thing coaching, technique, and preparation can't cover is lack of ability or talent. The Texans have done a good job of navigating the injury minefield this season. While the Howard injury will hurt, I have faith in the guys there still.
As of this writing, the Texans are in the eighth spot in the AFC playoff picture. The Steelers, Browns, and Colts are all in front of them at the fifth through seventh spots respectfully. They've beaten the Steelers already. They play the Browns on Christmas Eve and their starting quarterback is out for the season. The Colts are relying on the ghost of Gardner Minshew to steer their ship into the last game of the season vs. the Texans with a possible playoff trip on the line. The Broncos and Bills are the two teams immediately behind them. They play the Broncos this weekend. Even though they're on a hot streak, this is the same team that got 70 put on them by the Dolphins. The Bills are the old veteran boxer who still has some skill, but is now a stepping stone for up & comers.
To say this team should still make the playoffs would be an understatement in my opinion. I believe in them and what they have going on more than I believe in the teams I listed above. That includes teams around them in the playoff race that aren't on their schedule. The one thing that scares me a little moving forward is the sustainability of this line. When guys get up in age as athletes, it becomes harder to come back from injuries. The injuries also tend to occur more frequently when it's a knee, foot, ankle, shoulder, elbow, or another body part critical to blocking for C.J. Stroud.
I know they just re-signed three of those guys and drafted one they believe can be a starter, but depth and contingency plans are a way of life in the NFL. We see how important depth was this season. Why not plan ahead? Don't be surprised if the Texans spend valuable draft capital on the offensive line. By valuable, I'm talking about first through third or fourth rounders. Those are prime spots to draft quality offensive lineman. Whether day one starters or quality depth, those are the sweet spots. The only guy on the two deep depth chart for this offensive line that wasn't drafted in one of those rounds was George Fant, who was an undrafted rookie free agent. While I highly doubt they spend any significant free agency dollars on the group, I'm not totally ruling it out.
The bottom line is, this team will be okay on the line for the remainder of this season. The only way that doesn't happen, more injuries. Stroud is clearly the franchise guy. Protecting that investment is a top priority. I don't care about a number one receiver, or a stud stable or singular running back if the quarterback won't have time to get them the ball. If the pilot can't fly the plane, you know what happens. So making sure he's happy, healthy, and has a great crew is of the utmost importance.