HOUSTON - The Astros are in a hole they have rarely seen for Game 5 of the American League Championship Series after losing a heartbreaker Wednesday night.
The 'Stros arrive at Minute Maid Park Thursday down 3-1 to the Boston Red Sox, who led the league in victories with 108 during the regular season.
Game 5 is a must-win situation as the Astros look to take the series back to Fenway Park.
5 Keys to a win:
1. Don't panic
Something tells me these Astros will not have an ounce of panic in them. This is a confident baseball team that knows how to win big games. They know what's at stake in Game 5.
2. Justin Verlander
He's the Astros ace and he needs to pitch like it, just like he did in Game 1. Verlander was built to win playoff games and he has done nothing but pile up Ws throughout his career in the postseason.
The defense needs to play clean baseball. They've done that most of the series, but more than any night they need to avoid errors in Game 5.
4. Set the tone
Assuming the lineup stays the same, Alex Bregman needs to set the tone in the leadoff spot. He was moved into that position in Game 4 and needs to get on base and produce, since he should see some good pitches to hit.
5. Managers' moves
The A.J. Hinch versus Alex Cora battle will be as intense as it has been during the ALCS. With the Astros season on the line, Hinch will have to make smart moves with his pitching staff should Verlander need to come out.
It's an all hands on deck approach as the Astros expect a win and travel back to Boston to take a Game 6 and force a Game 7. The odds are stacked against them, but they are the defending world champions.
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