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Astros 4, Rays 3: We’ll do this dance one more time

This time around it was the Astros taking advantage.

League Championship - Tampa Bay Rays v Houston Astros - Game Four Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

How can one be expected to write a coherent recap while burying their face into a pillow as the Rays manage to load the bases and do precisely... nothing. Well, friends, it’s not an easy task, but I’m here to give you the breakdown (while having a breakdown) so let’s do this thing.

Two of the game’s best squared off in this outing as Tyler Glasnow faced off against Zack Greinke in a must-win game for the Houston Astros, with the Rays leading the series 3-0. For Rays fans there was no such thing as a safety net with the promise of a return to the World Series looming so close we could practically see the Texas horizon ahead.

But they needed one more win to get there, and the Astros had no intention of going quietly into the San Diego night.

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but after a one-two-three inning for Greinke, the struggling Jose Altuve blasted a solo home run in the first inning, putting the Astros on the board first. As luck would have it a baserunner in George Springer was eliminated in a double play right before the home run, which cut back on the damage. Trailing in the first is not something the Rays were unfamiliar with for this series, so you can be forgiven for not feeling an immediate sense of dread.

The second went quietly for both teams, and Greinke pitched a clean top of the third, but in the bottom of the inning some command struggles came to bit Tyler Glasnow. He walked Maldonado, who was then able to advance to second on a liner from Springer right back to the pitcher’s mound which seemed to take Glasnow a lot by surprise. Then Brantley walked to put two on. Altuve came up next and lobbed a deep double to right, allowing Maldonado to score and giving the Astros as 2-0 lead.

In the top of the fourth, Austin Meadows singled, and was followed by everyone’s most-loved rookie Randy Arozarena, who did that cool thing Randy Arozarena does, and hit a two-run homer to tie the game 2-2.

The bottom of the fifth inning saw things shift back in the Astros direction as Glasnow began to show more signs of wear, quite literally, with small splatters of blood on his pants from some kind of cut or blister. A single put Maldonado back on, then George Springer was up next, hitting a two-run shot for the Astros to retake the lead. Brantley singled to follow, but the Astros were unable to do any additional damage.

Greinke came out for the sixth inning and boy, it got dramatic. Manuel Margot reached on a single, then Meadows singled as well. Choi reached on an infield single to load the bases with two outs, but a questionable strike call (not to mention a bonkers check swing call on Arozarena during his at-bat) saw Mike Brosseau strike out to end the inning with the Rays leaving the men on base stranded. Mid-inning Dusty Baker tried to pull Greinke from the game but Zack wasn’t having on it and stayed in, which ultimately proved to be a good — if bold — move for the Astros.

Glasnow came back on for the sixth inning as well, and in spite of singles to Bregman and Tucker he was able to get out of the inning unscathed to end the game with a final line of 6.0IP, 8H, 4R, 4ER, 2BB, 5K and 2HR on 96 pitches. Greinke, meanwhile, finished with 6.0IP 5H, 2R, 2ER, 1BB, 7K and 1HR on 93 pitches.

Cristian Javier came on in relief for the Astros in the seventh and gave up a single to Tsutsugo, but no runs. In the bottom of the inning a newly-returned Jose Alvarado was back on the horse and looking strong. He gave up a single to George Springer, but retired the side without any runs scoring.

In the eighth, Alvarado gave way to Aaron Slegers, who with the aid of a very pretty double play, was able to get through the inning scoreless.

In the top of the ninth with a last chance for the Rays, a surprise Brandon Lowe appeared in the on-deck circle. A lengthy at-bat from Choi drove Javier from the game. He was replaced by Ryan Pressly who hoped to get the Astros out of the jam and faced the pinch-hitting Lowe. While it would have been a stellar moment for Lowe to have his big hero moment, he struck out. A nearly double-play on a hit from Joey Wendle resulted instead in a fielder’s choice that saw Choi tagged out but Wendle get safely to first.

A looooong double from Willy Adames brought Wendle home and put the go-ahead run at the plate with Tsutsugo at bat. A wild pitch advanced Adames to third. Unfortunately in spite of the rally, Tsutsugo lined out to end the game.

Astros win 4-3.