HOUSTON – George Springer broke a tie with a two-run homer, José Altuve homered and hit an RBI double, and Zack Greinke escaped a bases-loaded jam for the Houston Astros, who beat the Tampa Bay Rays 4-3 on Wednesday night to stay alive in the AL Championship Series.
With Altuve atoning for his poor defense this series, the Astros finally got their offense going after being pushed to the brink of a sweep. Seeking their third pennant in four seasons, they trail 3-1 going into Game 5 on Thursday afternoon.
The Rays remain one win from going to the World Series for the second time in franchise history.
Greinke, bothered by a sore arm in the Division Series against Oakland, made only one big mistake when he allowed a two-run homer to rookie slugger Randy Arozarena that tied the game at 2 in the fourth.
Given a 4-2 lead by Springer’s homer in the fifth, Greinke’s biggest pitch came when he struck out Mike Brosseau on a 3-2 changeup to end the sixth with the bases loaded.
After Greinke allowed consecutive singles by Manuel Margot and Austin Meadows with one out, manager Dusty Baker came out for a chat and decided to let the veteran right-hander continue. Arozarena struck out on a check-swing and Ji-Man Choi singled to load the bases before Greinke fanned Brosseau.
On Friday night, Brosseau hit a go-ahead homer in the eighth inning off Aroldis Chapman of the New York Yankees that carried the Rays to a 2-1 victory in the Game 5 clincher of the ALDS.
Greinke held the Rays to two runs and five hits in six innings for the win. He struck out seven and walked one.
Astros rookie Cristian Javier pitched two innings of one-hit relief before walking Ji-Man Choi to open the ninth. Ryan Pressly came on and got an out before Willy Adames hit an RBI double off the bottom of the left-center wall. Pressly got rookie Yoshi Tsutsugo on a fly to right for the save.
Rays towering right-hander Tyler Glasnow also went six innings, allowing four runs and eight hits while striking out five and walking two.
Altuve hit a solo homer in the first and an RBI double in the third for a 2-0 lead. His offense helped make up for his three errors that helped the Rays win Games 2 and 3 to move to the cusp of their first World Series since 2008.
Altuve homered for the second straight game and third time this series, all in the first inning. He and Springer are tied for the most homers in Astros postseason history, 18.
Altuve drove a 1-0 pitch from Glasnow to left just after the Rays turned a 3-6-3 double play.
Altuve doubled into the right-field corner with two outs in the third to bring in Martin Maldonado, who drew a leadoff walk and advanced on Springer’s grounder.
Arozarena homered onto the lower balcony on the Western Metal Supply Co. brick warehouse in the left-field corner with one out in the fourth to tie the game at 2. An inning later, Springer one-upped him when he hit a two-run shot onto the upper balcony of Petco Park’s main landmark at Petco Park to regain the lead for the Astros.
It was the third of the postseason for Springer, the MVP of the 2017 World Series.
It was the fifth of the postseason for Arozarena, who homered in each of the first three games against the Yankees and then connected in the ALCS opener.
The Astros remain villains in many people’s eyes for their sign-stealing scandal three years ago. On Wednesday night, someone with a megaphone on a balcony on a nearby building heckled members of the 2017 team by name: “Carlos Correa. You are a cheater. Shame on you. Josh Reddick. You are a cheater. Shame on you,” and so on.
THE CUBAN ROCKET
Arozarena’s 19 hits are the fourth-most by a rookie in a single postseason and his nine extra-base hits are the most in Rays postseason history. Nicknamed “The Cuban Rocket,” Arozarena defected from Havana to Mexico in 2015 and signed as a free agent with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2016. He made his big league debut last year and was traded to the Rays in the offseason.
Rays: Gold Glove CF Kevin Kiermaier was out of the lineup with a bruised left hand after being hit with a pitch in Tampa Bay’s five-run sixth inning Tuesday night. Manager Kevin Cash said Kiermaier would be available to hit if necessary.