Sports

Astros Even Series 2-2 With Big Ninth Inning: Four Thoughts

Jason Castro was the unlikely hero for the Astros Tuesday night.
Jason Castro was the unlikely hero for the Astros Tuesday night. Photo by Jack Gorman
The Astros managed to pull themselves out of a death spiral with a 9-2, come-from-behind victory in Boston Tuesday night — evening the series at two games apiece. It was a huge seven-run ninth inning that propelled Houston to the win, which means at least one more game will be held at Minute Maid Park this postseason.

After an early home run from Alex Bregman, the Astros trailed most of the game until Jose Altuve's solo shot to tie it. But it was the ninth inning when the Astros batted around with two outs turning a close game into a blowout. Game 5 is Wednesday afternoon in Boston.

Starting pitching is still a problem.

Zack Greinke only made it one-and-a-third innings before being pulled for reliever Christian Javier. Greinke gave up two runs on a home run in the second inning. In truth, he should have been out of the inning with a strikeout (more on that later), but the walk he gave up turned into a two-run home run. Fortunately, those were the only runs the Red Sox would score as the relievers put together a masterful game for seven-plus innings. But, once again, starting pitching was a problem for the Astros. Framber Valdez goes in Wednesday's game.

The two-out scoring is getting ridiculous.

The vast majority of the Astros runs this postseason have happened with two outs. In Game 4, all seven of their runs in the ninth inning came after Kyle Tucker and Aledmys Diaz went down on strikes. It is yet another example of the resilience of this team. In fact, Altuve's homer in the eighth accounted for the only run scored without two outs. There is something about the Astros and having their backs against the wall. Jason Castro was down to two outs and two strikes when he came through.


You can't spell Castro without Astro.

Give the Astros backup catcher credit — and Dusty Baker for subbing him in — he can still hit. In the ninth with two outs and two strikes, Castro lined a single into right field that scored Carlos Correa and gave them the lead for good. Arguably, Castro should have been out on a strike that was called a ball, but he wasn't and the rest is history. With Martin Maldonado one-for-forever this postseason, having a bat behind the dish, even if he isn't a great defensive catcher like Maldy, is a big deal.

Win or lose, this game had issues.

From the completely unreliable strike zone to the four-hour-plus length, Major League Baseball has got to get hold of the game. The home run on Greinke should not have happened. Officials clearly missed a check swing strike that led to a walk. And Castro was clearly out on a strike three that was called a ball. Never mind the insane game time. They were only three innings in after nearly 90 minutes. MLB is going to have to address the problems with the strike zone and the incredibly long games in the offseason if they can. They have seemed both unwilling and unable in the past, but Game 4 was a clinic on why it is important.
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Jeff Balke is a writer, editor, photographer, tech expert and native Houstonian. He has written for a wide range of publications and co-authored the official 50th anniversary book for the Houston Rockets.
Contact: Jeff Balke