Four Thoughts on the Astros Closing ALDS in Chicago

The Astros became only the third team in MLB history to reach the last four of five consecutive baseball games against the White Sox 10-1 on Tuesday in Chicago. After the win in Game 4, the Astros will go home where they will deliver the American League Champion Series against the other Sox (the Red) starting the weekend.

Unlike Sunday when they rose just 5-1 to blow the lead and eventually explode, the Astros pitching is tough and their bats are generally resilient against arguably the best bullpen in the majors. Jose Altuve’s three-run homer at the top of the ninth was the capper in a series that saw the Astros average nearly eight operations per game in the series.

Before we start dissecting the next series, let’s first look at what happened on Tuesday.

Don’t poke the bear.

After the Astros lost Game 3, White Sox quarterback Ryan Tepeda suggested that the ‘Stros insist on hitting away at Minute Maid Park because they had no advantage in stealing signs. Honestly, the media played it more than the teams did, but it wasn’t a team you inspired. For an entire season, they heard every insult and saw every flying inflatable trash can. They don’t crash. They just retaliate.

Kyle Tucker literally stole the show.

Going up to 2-1 in the fourth inning, Tucker was alone and went on to steal two bases on consecutive pitches. After two batters, Martin Maldonado got his first hit of the series to score Tucker and stretch the lead a bit. Eventually, the roof was roofed over to the White Sox, but it was a critical moment in what was, at the time, a close ballgame. In fact, the Astros stole four bases in the game, matching an all-time high posteason for a game.

Altuve gets the last laugh.

On the second inning, Jose Altuve was hit by a pitch. Mostly he shouldered it. Later in the game, Kendall Graveman struck Jose Abreu, the White Sox Slugger on a pitch that clearly moved away from him. Neither pitch was intentional, but when Abreu was plunked, Sox manager Tony LaRussa left the dugout for what seemed like hours arguing that the pitch was intentional. Both teams were warned and that’s it. Until the ninth when Altuve, against baseball’s best close and a formidable pitcher Liam Hendricks, deposited a first fastball pitch well into the left wall of the field to put an exclamation mark on a game at hand na.

Dusty Baker pulled the right strings.

Baker has received a lot of criticism, much here it deserves, for his choices, especially when it comes to handling construction staff. But, on Tuesday he was in full control, pulling Lance McCullers perhaps earlier than expected for Yimi Garcia, who struggled on Sunday. It worked and the Astros rolled to scoreless inning after scoreless inning afterwards. Between that and the frequent calls of thieves against a team prone to giving bases in a critical game of four, the Astros chipper perfectly dialed everything.

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