The Astros entered Game 3 of the ALCS backed into a corner. They'd squandered home field advantage and stared down a returning Max Scherzer with their season for all intents and purposes on the line.
As has so often been the case, the Astros answered the bell. Their bats finally woke up, and coupled with another dominant playoff start from Cristian Javier, picked up a much-needed victory, defeating Texas 8-5.
With a lefty on the hill today, there were some questions about how Dusty would fill out the lineup card. Would Michael Brantley stay in the lineup? Does Chas McCormick find his way in with his success against lefties? Or would Dusty play the long game with Dane Dunning expected to relieve Andrew Heaney?
I don't know that anybody would have anticipated what Dusty decided to deploy for Game 4. Here is how the Astros will back up Jose Urquidy:
Houston Astros lineup for ALCS Game 4 (October 19, 2023)
Yes, Mauricio Dubón picked up three hits last night, but batting him second was certainly a choice.
Eno Sarris of The Athletic had a great piece today, breaking down some of the old-school playoff schools of thought, i.e. riding the hot hand.
Needless to say, Baker subscribes to that school of thought. Kyle Tucker remains in the six-hole, one night after walking three times and blasting a 106.6 mph double into right center. The lone plate appearance in which Tucker was retired, he grounded out on a ball he hit 104.6 mph.
Yes, Tucker's playoff numbers still aren't great, but with the season on the line, is it wise to give more at-bats to a guy that hit .278 with a below average 97 OPS+ this year in Dubón than an MVP candidate in Tucker?
The Astros have the pitching edge tonight with Urquidy on the bump against the Rangers for a bullpen game, but it's likely this will be the game this series when a slugfest breaks out. Houston will rely on a rather interesting lineup configuration as they try to draw even 2-2.