Well, the Astros wasted a golden opportunity in Game 4 of the ALCS.
The first two games of the ALCS ended in the Astros favor. The next two games, um, simply did not. Let’s just say we may remembering Game 4 of the ALCS in a similar fashion as Game 4 of the ALDS.
At this point in the series, the Astros collective lack of offensive firepower and a shaky bullpen have led to their current predicament. To be fair, though, a tied series at two games apiece with Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander scheduled to pitch isn’t a bad situation. Sure, any team would much rather have a 3-to-1 series lead. But it could be worse.
So, where to go from here?
The ALCS, for all intent and purposes, is now a three-game series. At least one more game will be played in New York and Houston. Game 7, if necessary, will be held in Houston. An advantage, in theory, for the Astros.
The key point for the Astros will be Keuchel’s and Verlander’s starts for Game 5 and Game 6. Both pitchers had excellent pitching lines in Game 1 and Game 2 of the ALCS.
It is important that the Astros learn from the disastrous ending to Game 4, yet not dwell on it too much. Momentum may be on the Yankees side right now, however, a solid performance in Game 5 can swing the momentum right back.
Regardless of momentum, the offense itself must figure itself out. While Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel have provided key hits in the series, Houston will need the likes of George Springer, Josh Reddick, Alex Bregman and others to step up. So far, they have not.
The bullpen has been another eye sore on the Astros.
For example, Ken Giles has allowed a run in each postseason appearance. Chris Devenski looks mortal once again. Joe Musgrove has been terrific since his conversion as a reliever, yet not one pitcher is perfect all the time. Simply, the lack of quality depth in the Houston bullpen has been an issue. Since the Verlander acquisition, the bullpen has been viewed as the Astros primary weakness. In the postseason, this has proven to be true. When compared to the postseason showing of the “super” bullpen of the Yankees, or the ridiculously solid Dodgers staff, the Astros may be a quality reliever short. Maybe two. Or three.
All of that said, the Astros are still a good baseball team. You don’t win 101 games by pure accident. And the ALCS is still up for grabs. A 2-2 series tie with Keuchel and Verlander scheduled to pitch along with two of three games possibly in Houston is far from a death sentence. For Houston’s sake, though, Game 5 will be a good place to buck the recent trends.