Aren’t y’all glad Jeff Bagwell and Jim Crane decided to sign Jose Abreu?
It must have been the plan all along. Win the division with the fewest victories possible. Then, when the playoffs begin, unleash the secret weapon.
I don’t have to tell you how badly Abreu played most of this season. Or how frustrated the fans were about his performance. But in the playoffs, Abreu has four homers, 11 RBI, and a 1.020 OPS. His three-run shot was the decisive hit in this playoff game. He even stole a base. He has hit three of the six longest home runs hit by any player this playoff season.
Jim Crane. You’re a genius.
It wasn’t a one-man show by any means. The Astros silenced the Rangers crowd almost immediately. Jose Altuve lined a double down the left-field line on the third pitch of the game. He advanced to third on a Mauricio Dubon single. They both scored on an Alex Bregman triple.
Of course, never to be left out of any scoring rally, Yordan Alvarez singled home Bregman on a liner to center. The Stros proceeded to load the bases, but the rally ended on a Martin Maldonado strikeout from relief pitcher Dane Dunning, who replaced starter Andrew Heaney after a walk to Chas McCormick.
In the second inning, the Astros left runners in scoring position with one out, and in the bottom of the inning, Adolis Garcia made Jose Urquidy and the Astros pay, getting the Rangers back in the game with a lead-off solo home run.
But that was not all. Mitch Garver scored after a walk, a Nathaniel Lowe double, and a Josh Heim sacrifice fly.
In the third inning, Corey Seager tied the score 3-3, breaking his post-season slump with a solo homer to center. When Garcia’s single put runners on first and second, Manager Dusty Baker replaced Urquidy with Ryne Stanek, who got Garver to ground out on the first pitch.
In the fourth inning, the Astros loaded the bases with no outs, starting with #9 batter Maldonado walking after being down 0-2, another walk to Altuve, and a single by Dubon.
Dunning then struck out Bregman, and Manager Bruce Bochy brought in lefty Cody Bradford to pitch to Alvarez. Alvarez hit one over the fence yesterday against Bradford (for an out). This time, Alvarez hit a 3-2 pitch 401 feet but again missed the homer. However, it did score Maldonado at third.
This time, the big hero wasn’t Alvarez but you-know-who. Jose Abreu finished the job that Alvarez started by clearing the bases with a massive 438-foot homer to left center.
This bringing in lefties thing just isn’t working.
Hunter Brown came in for the Astros in the bottom of the fourth and totally shut down the Rangers with two Ks. But Chris Stratton mowed down the bottom of the Astros order with equal alacrity.
Brown’s luck did not hold in the Rangers’ fifth. Or did it? Leody Taveras and Marcus Semien led off the inning with solid singles. The next two batters hit screamers.
This play will go down in History as The Batting Glove Play. Cory Seager smashed a line drive, caught by Abreu at first. Abreu raced at Semien towards first to make a tag for the double play.
It was ruled that Abreu missed the tag. It seemed that it wasn’t even worth a review. It turns out that Abreu barely nicked the thumb of the batting glove sticking out of Semien’s back pocket. A Seager seeming double was miraculously turned into a double play. Evan Carter then smashed a lineout that Dubon in center barely caught up to.
There was no scoring in the fifth and sixth innings, in part because of this play by Jose Altuve in the seventh.
The Astros padded their lead in the top of the seventh on this two-run Chas Chop.
The Astros weren’t through. Jose Altuve led off the eighth with a double, originally ruled a home run on a ball that hit the yellow line on the left-field fence.
Altuve had to return to second base. But no matter, Alvarez singled him home anyway.
By routing the Rangers tonight, the Astros were able to rest the meat of their bullpen and give everyone else some needed work. After Urquidy left the game in the third inning, Ryne Stanek, Hunter Brown, Phil Maton, and Rafael Montero tamed the potent Ranger offense like a purring pussycat. The Rangers got only three hits after the third inning.
The road-field advantage continues for the Astros. This is their 18th road win out of 21 games. The Astros have scored 81 runs in nine games at Globe Life Park.
Today it was a team effort. Altuve had three hits and three runs. Alvarez had two hits and three RBI. Dubon had two hits and two runs after getting three hits yesterday. Another Chas Chomp and, of course, the monster Abreu smash.
The Astros are now favored to win the series tying the series 2-2. Can they handle that? No home team has had a lead in any of the four games.
Fun fact: Ryne Stanek is the winning pitcher after throwing one pitch.
Tomorrow is an afternoon game. Justin Verlander — Hell Yeah — is back on the playoff mound for the Stros. It’s a replay of Game One against Jordan Montgomery.
Here’s a video of the game’s highlights. Thanks to Zeeshan21 in the comments.