Astros Edge Rays To Fight Again

Springer (4) celebrates after homer
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
The reigning A.L. Champion Astros are hanging onto this year's A.L.C.S. by the nail of their little toe but they are still alive after winning Game 4 in San Diego, 4-3, when a nervous ninth ended mercifully with the potential tying run on third base. Game 5 will be Thursday afternoon at 4:07 pm Central as the two teams return to daylight baseball.

Jose Altuve started Wednesday the same way he started Monday and Tuesday - with a solo homer to left. The shot off 6-8 righty Tyler Glasnow gave Houston another early lead. Altuve then drilled an opposite field RBI double in the third, the first hit by an Astro to drive in a run in this series other than by home run. The little man seems to have the tall man measured.

If anyone is as hot at the plate this postseason as Altuve, it would be Tampa's Randy Arozarena who knotted the game at two in the fourth when he jumped on a breaking pitch from Zack Greinke, sending it down the left field line and into the seats for a two-run homer. The veteran Greinke did not let the score spiral into a meltdown, however.

The tie did not last long as George Springer unloaded on a 100-mph pitch from Glasnow, knocking it into the fourth deck of the Western Metals Building down the left field line. Martin Maldonado scored ahead of him for a 4-2 Houston lead.

The rest of the night was spent trying to protect that advantage. The Rays filled the bases on three singles in the sixth but Greinke fanned Mike Brosseau to escape the jam. Cristian Javier tossed two scoreless innings of relief but walked the leadoff batter in the ninth.

Dusty Baker opted for closer Ryan Pressly who struck out Brandon Lowe and got the second out on a force play which involved a good throw by Altuve to second base (that's noteworthy because of Altuve's throwing errors that spurred the past two losses).

However, Willy Adames launched a drive to the left field fence that plated the runner and put the Rays within a score. A wild pitch moved the tying run to third. That's when Yoshi Tsutsugo spanked a 1-2 pitch that lined into Springer's glove in right for the final out, allowing the Astros to fight another day one game from elimination.

Neither team had, as of this writing, officially announced their Game 5 starting pitcher. Tampa might opt to come back with Blake Snell on three days rest. Houston might hand the ball to rookie swingman Luis Garcia (0-1) in a risky move. The Astros might have to go deep into their bullpen in hopes they can rest Framber Valdez for Game 6.

Temperatures for Thursday's game are forecast into the 90s which might exhaust some of the northern-based squads. One would expect teams from Tampa and Houston would be unfazed by it.

- Bob Hulsey