MLB -- Down 2-1, Houston Astros suddenly have more questions than answers


HOUSTON — The Houston Astros have made loads of statements this season. However instantly, they’re filled with questions.

Sure, they’re the defending champions. Certain, they gained 103 video games within the common season. True, they steamrollered the Indians within the American League Division Collection and began off the American League Championship Collection as sturdy as ever. However now, after getting blown away by the Boston Red Sox in {Game} 3, they’re on the flawed facet of a 2-1 tally. What’s extra, they discover themselves confronted with the prospect of beginning somebody not named Verlander or Cole and even Keuchel of their most necessary recreation of the 12 months.

For what it is price, no person within the Houston clubhouse is panicking.

“I do not assume we will roll over,” supervisor A.J. Hinch advised reporters after his staff’s 8-2 loss. “So we’ll see you again right here at 7:09 tomorrow evening.”

In case you’re scoring at residence, that is 30 minutes sooner than the scheduled first pitch Wednesday. In different phrases, Hinch cannot await {Game} 4.

He is not the one one who already has put {Game} Three within the rearview mirror.

“This staff does a great job of worrying concerning the subsequent pitch,” stated red-hot slugger Alex Bregman, who reached base three extra occasions Tuesday however lined out to heart with the tying run on second in his last at-bat to finish the seventh inning. “That is actually what baseball is all about. Worrying concerning the subsequent pitch. The primary pitch of the sport tomorrow, that is a very powerful pitch of our season. When that one’s over, we transfer on to the second. Baseball is a recreation that is primarily based on failure, so you need to have a brief reminiscence. The fellows on this clubhouse do a great job of understanding that.”

The fellows within the Astros locker room even have a stable grasp on what it is wish to have their backs towards the postseason wall. Final 12 months, they trailed the Yankees 3-2 within the ALCS however got here again to win the ultimate two video games of the collection and advance to the Fall Basic. It is not as if that is uncharted territory.

“It takes 4 wins to win this collection,” Hinch stated. “They know that. We all know that. We’re down 2-1, but it surely’s about tomorrow’s recreation.”

With that in thoughts, listed here are the largest questions going through Houston forward of Wednesday’s {Game} Four showdown:

How a lot rope will Charlie Morton get?

The Astros had three pitchers who reached 200 innings through the common season, however Morton wasn’t one in every of them. In truth, Morton’s 167 innings this 12 months have been essentially the most he has thrown since 2011, when he labored a career-high 171⅔ for Pittsburgh. What’s extra, the 34-year-old righty hit the disabled record in late August due to shoulder discomfort. Though he spent the minimal 10 days on the shelf, he hasn’t precisely been a workhorse since returning: Over the previous month, he has thrown a complete of 58 pitches. That features a 24-pitch begin on Sept. 23, when he was lifted after one inning as a result of his shoulder was barking. However, Morton is scheduled to take the mound — for the primary time in 17 days — in what’s now Houston’s greatest recreation of the 12 months. Not that his teammates seem like frightened.

“Charlie’s a warrior,” Bregman stated of the pitcher who tossed 4 innings of aid on quick relaxation to shut out {Game} 7 of the World Collection after beginning {Game} 4. “Final 12 months, he was unbelievable within the postseason. This 12 months, he has 15 wins. Only a veteran man who’s going to go compete for his staff and try to give us each likelihood to win.”

If Morton falters early, although, it would not be a shock to see Hinch give him an early hook and switch to a bullpen that options loads of size in longtime starters akin to Lance McCullers Jr. and Collin McHugh.

How a lot is Roberto Osuna to be trusted?

Since coming to Houston in a extremely scrutinized deadline deal, Osuna — the previous Blue Jays nearer who was suspended for 75 video games this season for violating MLB’s home violence coverage — has been good. Like, actually good. In 23 regular-season appearances with the Astros, he posted a 0.88 WHIP with a 1.99 ERA and was an ideal 12-for-12 in save alternatives. He tacked on two scoreless appearances throughout Houston’s ALDS sweep of the Indians. However all that got here to a screeching halt Tuesday.

In a nightmarish eighth inning, Osuna hit two batters and gave up three hits, together with a grand slam by Jackie Bradley Jr. The homer prolonged Boston’s result in 8-2 and fully silenced the raucous Houston crowd — aside from a smattering of boos that rained down on Osuna after he was pulled.

After the sport, Osuna obtained the customary vote of confidence. “There’s going to be some massive outs we’ll want from him in the remainder of the collection,” Hinch stated. “He’ll clear his thoughts. The closers have a brief reminiscence, particularly him. And we will count on him to shut out tomorrow evening’s recreation with the lead.”

Nonetheless, it is honest to marvel how Hinch will use his 23-year-old nearer going ahead. It is price noting that in that brutal eighth inning, Osuna threw 27 pitches, one fewer than his season excessive with the Astros. That was again on Aug. 21 towards the Mariners. The following evening, Hinch referred to as on Osuna once more, and the reliever rewarded his skipper by accumulating his first save in an Astros’ uni. However that was August, and that is October.

How a lot assist will Alex Bregman get?

What Bregman is doing this October borders on the legendary. After two hits and a stroll Tuesday, his on-base proportion stands at .714 for the postseason. His seven walks within the ALCS are tied with Barry Bonds and Frank Thomas for essentially the most free passes by way of the primary three video games of a seven-game collection. Not for nothing, Bregman has been standing on his head at third base, the place he made a number of jaw-dropping performs in {Game} 3. However offensively, as Tuesday’s contest proved, he alone cannot carry the Astros.

Cleanup hitter Yuli Gurriel, whose .403 common with runners in scoring place was second-best within the majors within the common season, is hitting .111 in such conditions within the playoffs and .174 total. Carlos Correa, who has battled again issues this season and has been a shell of his regular self offensively, was within the seven-hole once more Tuesday and is hitting .190 within the postseason. Even George Springer, the 2017 World Collection MVP whose October exploits are well-documented, was comparatively quiet in {Game} 3, going 1-for-Four with a pair of whiffs.

“Their offense did a great job,” Bregman stated of the Purple Sox. “If we need to win tomorrow, we have got to do a greater job on our finish.”

Regardless of one other massive day on the plate, Bregman took the excessive highway and lumped himself in with the remainder of his teammates: “I simply try to assist my staff win video games. Did not do a adequate job of that right now. Got here up with a person in scoring place and an opportunity to tie the sport and did not.”

He wasn’t the one one who failed to come back by way of: Houston went 1-for-Eight with runners in scoring place and left eight males on base. If the Astros plan to even up the collection on Wednesday, they will should do a greater job of capitalizing.

How a lot relaxation will Houston’s banged-up stars get?

Regardless of his struggles and regardless of resting extensively down the stretch, Correa has been in there for all six of the Astros’ playoff video games. Ditto for Jose Altuve, whose sore knee resulted in his DHing on Tuesday and who seemed lower than entire on a first-inning single towards the left-field nook which may have been a double if Altuve had two good wheels. However do not count on both of Houston’s stars to take a seat any time quickly.

“I’ve little doubt he will play tomorrow,” Hinch stated of Altuve. “I am both going to DH him or play him at second. However he is leaving all of it on the market.”

So too are the Astros. Whether or not that shall be sufficient to advance, solely time will inform.



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