What a difference a day makes.
What a difference an inning makes.
I’ll admit it. I thought the series was all but over. I can’t deny that. Just read yesterday's recap.
And it sure started out like the same old same old 2021 ALCS Astros pitching meltdown.
The Astros starter once again couldn't get past the third inning. (second inning this time)
But unlike the two previous games, the bullpen was not only good, they were nearly perfect. From inning two through nine, the pen held the Boston sluggers to no runs and only four hits.
And then, after a continuation of Game 3’s anemic hitting performance for the first eight innings of the games, the Astros finally erupted with seven runs in the ninth to hand the Red Sox the kind of humiliation the Astros have faced in the previous two games.
The Astros did manage to score first tonight on this first-inning solo homer into the left-field bleachers by Alex Bregman.
Monstrous Breggy Bomb. #ForTheH pic.twitter.com/CRpFpvLNJJ— Houston Astros (@astros) October 20, 2021
But the Red Sox answered in the bottom of the first with two runs after there were two outs and nobody on base. Starter Zack Greinke walked Rafael Devers, followed, of course, by a Xander Bogaerts homer that may have hit a passing car on the freeway adjacent to Fenway.
Greinke allowed two more baserunners, one on an Alex Bregman error, but got out of the first without further damage.
Greinke would get only one out in the second inning, leaving a man on first for his replacement Brooks Raley. Raley would escape without further damage, setting a pattern for the bullpen that would last almost eight innings.
From the second inning until the ninth the game became a pitching duel, the Astros bullpen against Red Sox starter Nick Pivetta, who went five innings without allowing another run after the Breggie bomb.
After Raley, Cristian Javier provided the Stros three scoreless innings, allowing two hits, two walks, with three strikeouts.
After Javier walked the first batter in the sixth, Phil Maton came on to silence the Sox for yet another inning. In the seventh and eighth Kendall Graveman extended the bullpen scoreless streak to 6.2 innings.
In the eighth inning, Jose Altuve, who had been hitless in this and the previous game, jumped on the first pitch of the inning by Garrett Whitlock, sending it deep into the left-field bleachers to tie the score.
Brand. New. Game.#ForTheH pic.twitter.com/r0Gr7S2jBP— Houston Astros (@astros) October 20, 2021
In the ninth inning, Boston manager Alex Cora went for the Astro jugular and sent in his best starter, Nathan Eovaldi, to hold the Astros. It backfired.
Carlos Correa led off the inning with a double, and after two strikeouts and an intentional walk to Yuli Gurriel, reserve catcher Jason Castro singled in Correa to give the Astros the lead.
CASTRO THE ASTRO.#ForTheH pic.twitter.com/Hkm0DcByua— Houston Astros (@astros) October 20, 2021
After an Altuve walked chased Eovaldi, sending in Martin Perez...
Up to the plate...Professional hitter...Michael Brantley
Brantley hit a three-run double on Perez’s first pitch to give the Astros their first commanding lead of the ALCS, 6-2.
Now we've got a tea party.#ForTheH pic.twitter.com/MvDJ9PRK5H— Houston Astros (@astros) October 20, 2021
After an intentional walk to Alex Bregman, Yordan Alvarez made them pay with a run-scoring single to score Gurriel.
The man who started the rally, Correa, got another hit, an infield single and an error to score Bregman. And then Kyle Tucker completed the scoring on a single through the shift to score Alvarez.
Can't take the heat, get out the kitchen.#ForTheH pic.twitter.com/dXhn9Ut9gz— Houston Astros (@astros) October 20, 2021
All seven runs in the ninth were scored with two outs and the seven runs tie the record for the most runs scored in a ninth inning of a playoff game.
Ryan Pressly completed the scoreless streak by the bullpen, allowing two hits but no runs to complete the Astro 9-2 win.
Besides turning the tables on Boston by giving the Astros a 2-2 tie in the series, a guaranteed ticket back to Houston, and the return of home-field advantage, the game turned the tables in another important way.
Alex Cora gambled that Nathan Eovaldi would bury the Astros and put them in a deep 3-1 hole in the series. Instead, Astros bats buried Eovaldi, and now his future use in the series is uncertain. So it’s no longer the Astros with problems in their starting pitching thanks to Cora’s risky move.
The Astros needed unlikely heroes to step up in this game. I nominate Cristian Javier and his three scoreless innings of relief. And the entire bullpen while we’re at it.
I don’t know what any of the pitchers will have left in the tank tomorrow, but whatever happens next, they’ll be back in Houston to finish this off.
Game 5 is Wednesday at 4:08 CDT.