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Astros bullpen squanders big lead in 6-4 loss to Yankees to tie ALCS 2-2

The Astros’ bullpen squandered a great start from Lance McCullers and a 4-0 lead, allowing the Yankees to score six unanswered runs and even up the ALCS 2-2.

After six terrific innings from McCullers, the Yankees poured it on the Astros’ relievers, scoring six unanswered runs to make a huge comeback and beat the Astros 6-4 in Game 4 of the ALCS.

Sonny Gray got the game started with two quick outs before walking Jose Altuve on four pitches. Carlos Correa followed and grounded out to end the top of the first. McCullers started with an efficient inning, retiring all three Yankees in order on 10 pitches ending the scoreless first inning.

Carlos Beltran recorded the first hit of the game with a two-out double to right field in the top of the second but was left stranded after a fly out by Marwin Gonzalez to end the half inning. McCullers continued to look strong in the bottom half, getting his second strikeout and getting another 1-2-3 inning to send the 0-0 game to the third inning.

In the top of the third, Gray hit Brian McCann with a pitch making him a leadoff runner but ended up avoiding any damage after two groundouts, one for a double play to end the half inning on just 8 pitches.  Todd Frazier hit a one-out bloop single to center field in the bottom of the inning to give the Yankees their first hit of the game, but was left stranded to leave the game tied up at 0 going into the fourth.

Correa reached on a fielding error by Starlin Castro with one out in the top of the fourth then moved to second on a wild pitch by Gray, but was left there after a strikeout and fly out. Lance McCullers issued a leadoff walk to Aaron Judge in the bottom of the inning but fought back with two popouts and a weird pickoff of Aaron Judge who went past second during the flyball, never touched second going back to first, was called safe, then thrown out at second again to end the inning, leaving the game scoreless.

Gray put the Astros down quickly again in the top of the fifth, including two strikeouts. McCullers issued another leadoff walk in the bottom of the inning but again worked around it with a double play and groundout, keeping the scoreless pitcher’s duel going into the sixth.

George Springer led off the sixth with a walk, followed by Josh Reddick reaching base on catcher’s interference, putting runners on first and second with no outs. Joe Girardi made the call to the bullpen after Gray threw a first-pitch ball to Altuve, bringing in David Robertson to try and avoid the first run of the game. Altuve walked, loading the bases with no outs for Correa. Correa struck out, bringing up Yuli Gurriel who knocked a ball down the third-base line, clearing the bases before he got caught between second and third for the second out, but still giving the Astros the big 3-0 lead. Lance McCullers continued his dominant game in the bottom of the inning, putting the Yankees down 1-2-3.

Chad Green pitched the top of the seventh for the Yankees, allowing a one-out double to Gonzalez who then came around to score on another fielding error by Castro, extending the Astros lead to 4-0. McCullers came back our for the seventh but left a ball over the plate which Judge hammered out to center field to make the score 4-1, bringing A.J. Hinch out for a call to the bullpen. Chris Devenski took the mound but gave up a triple to Didi Gregorius who scored on a sac fly by Gary Sanchez to cut the Astros lead in half and make it 4-2. Devenski walked Greg Bird next, bringing Hinch back out to call on Joe Musgrove. Alex Bregman made an incredible stop and throw on a groundball down the third-base line for the second out, followed by a popout to finally end the inning and keep the Astros ahead.

Green returned for the top of the eighth and was able to get a quick inning, retiring the Astros in order on 9 pitches. Musgrove struggled in the bottom half, giving up back-to-back no-out singles, resulting in Ken Giles coming in to try and get the last six outs. Giles started with a groundout, which scored Todd Frazier from third, bringing the Yankees within one run at 4-3. Aaron Judge followed and hit a ball off the left field wall, scoring the tying run to make it 4-4. Gary Sanchez gave the Yankees their first lead of the night, scoring two on a double to make it a 6-4 game, leading to another call to the bullpen after an intentional walk to Greg Bird. Luke Gregerson came in and issued a walk to load the bases, but was able to avoid any further damage with two groundouts to end the disaster of an eighth inning.

The Yankees turned to their closer, Aroldis Chapman, in the top of the ninth, who got two strikeouts and a fly out to save the 6-4 win and make the ALCS a best out of three for the remaining three games.

Game 5: Tomorrow’s first pitch will be in the early 4:08 PM Central time slot again, and can be seen on FS1. The pitching matchup is expected to be a rematch of Game 1 with Dallas Keuchel going for Houston and Masahiro Tanaka for New York. The Astros will hope to get a similar outcome to Game 1 where Keuchel dominated the Yankees over seven scoreless innings including 10 strikeouts while Tanaka allowed two runs in his six innings as the Astros went on to win that game 2-1.

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