The Oakland A’s had their backs against the wall facing elimination and were down 7-4 into the seventh inning of yesterday’s Game 3, but a Chad Pinder homer and two sac flies later and the A’s took a two-run lead.
Meanwhile, all-world closer Liam Hendriks was called to record not three, not six but the final nine outs of the ball game, something he accomplished without allowing a run en route to a 9-7 come-from-behind win.
Can the A’s stave off elimination again in this afternoon’s Game 4? Let’s find out as it’s the A’s vs. Astros once again from Dodger Stadium in L.A.!
A’s vs. Astros Betting Odds
- A’s (-102)
- Astros (-108)
- A’s +1.5 (-190)
- Astros -1.5 (+165)
- Over 9.5 (-105)
- Under 9.5 (-115)
A’s vs. Astros ALDS Game 4 Breakdown
The A’s will send 2019 ace Frankie Montas to the hill for this one in what marks his first start of these playoffs but also his second appearance.
This does mark his first appearance of this series as his lone postseason action so far includes just two innings of one-run ball relief in the Wild Card round against the White Sox.
Montas was on his way to stardom last season when he worked to a 2.63 ERA/3.00 FIP in 96 innings, but he was hit with an 80-game PED ban and made just one start afterwards and the A’s were eliminated in the Wild Card game against the Rays.
This season, his numbers took a hit. Montas posted a 5.60 ERA across 11 starts and 53 innings, but his 4.74 FIP, 4.36 xFIP and 4.40 SIERA all suggest he pitched better than than ERA figure shows and he also racked up punchouts at a career-high 10.19 K/9 clip.
Walks (3.91 BB/9) and home runs (1.70 HR/9) hurt him, but Montas allowed just 35.9% hard contact. Still, his ground-ball rate plummeted from 49.% last season to 36.8% this time around which could help explain the spike in home runs.
Three of Montas’ 11 starts this season came against these Astros, and there we mixed results. He hurled seven shutout frames while allowing no walks and just two hits in his first start against them, but was then shelled for five runs in just 3.1 innings his second time out against his division rival.
His final regular-season start against Houston included five innings of two-run ball while Montas went six shutout innings with 13 strikeouts against the Mariners in his final tune-up start which happens to be his most recent start on September 27.
All told he posted a 4.17 ERA in 15.1 innings against the Astros this season and owns a 4.50 ERA in seven starts, nine appearances and 40 career innings against Houston.
We still don’t know who will get the starting nod for the Astros tonight, but we do know this: it will almost certainly be Zack Greinke or Christian Javier. In other words, a right-handed pitcher.
Greinke didn’t make his schedule Game 3 start due to arm soreness, and his availability for the remainder of the series remains in doubt. The rookie Javier could then be the most logical choice or perhaps the two splits the duties to open the game before turning it over to the Astros’ bullpen.
Greinke endured significant struggles in the second half of the regular season when he posted an ERA north of 7.00 before he pitched four innings of one-run ball against the Twins in Game 1 of the Wild Card round, but also walked three. He owns a 4.13 ERA/4.35 FIP across 17 starts and 96 career postseason frames.
The rookie Javier worked to a nice 3.48 ERA in the regular season, but his 4.94 FIP, 4.86 xFIP and monstrous 6.63 FIP suggest he was far worse than his ERA suggests.
He actually allowed only 28.6% hard contact, but a monster 52.2% fly-ball rate which led to a big 1.82 HR/9 clip. He also allowed just a .194 BABIP and stranded 86.2% of baserunners, both of which are set to regress negatively.
The regression hasn’t kicked in yet as he’s made two scoreless relief appearances spanning four innings in these playoffs, but 100% of the contact against him has been in the air. The A’s homered five times yesterday and the ball is travelling quite well at Dodger Stadium in this series, so the fly-ball ways of Javier doesn’t appear to bode well for him in this spot and in this venue.
As just noted, the A’s exploded at the plate in Game 3, launching five long balls. The first four home runs were of the solo variety before Pinder hit a three-run, opposite-field homer into the first rows of seats over the short wall down the right field line.
While Pinder’s didn’t get out by much, there were some majestic homers as well, especially Matt Olson who tattooed one onto the pavilion in right field well beyond the bleachers.
The A’s have been one of the more powerful offenses in baseball in recent years and they took a little bit of a step back this season with a 13th-ranked .177 ISO versus righties and a .318 wOBA that tied the Chicago Cubs for 17th.
It’s one of the more disciplined offenses against righties as they tied the division rival Angels for fourth with an 11% walk rate on the season and worked an 11th-ranked .324 OBP despite not hitting for much average.
Nonetheless, you wonder what yesterday’s outburst does for their confidence. Hitting can be contagious and after they scored just seven runs over the first two games of this series the A’s offense is riding plenty of momentum after a nine-run showing in Game 3.
All trash-can banging jokes aside, the Astros’ offense took a major step back this season. After leading the league with a .355 wOBA last season – in which they apparently didn’t steal signs – but they fell to the bottom half of the league this season.
Their .315 wOBA sat just behind the A’s/Cubs tie at 19th in the league versus right-handed pitching and their power regressed as well by way of their 18th-ranked .166 ISO off righties.
That said, it’s an offense that’s been swinging it of late.
They combined for only seven runs while sweeping the Twins in two Wild Card games, the Astros have scored at least five runs in all three games in this ALDS matchup and have averaged 7.3 runs per game for the series.
It’s also the big boys getting it done. Playoff George Springer is back as he’s hitting .462 with a 1.500 OPS for the series, Jose Altuve homered and had three hits yesterday, Carlos Correa is hitting .400 for the series, Michael Brantley had two hits in yesterday’s game and Alex Bregman is hitting .364 for the series as well. Add in a .350 average from youngster Kyle Tucker in these playoffs as a whole and the Astros’ best offensive players have been their best for this series.
Springer, Correa and Brantley all have good numbers in their careers against Montas and all three have homered against him while current Astros hitters are hitting .271 with a .742 OPS in their careers against Montas in a combined 146 plate appearances.
The A’s were looking for their league-best regular-season bullpen to show up and give them a boost to get back into this series and that’s exactly what took place.
One of baseball’s best relievers again this season, Liam Hendricks nailed down the final three innings of their Game 3 victory following 1.1 scoreless innings from left-hander Jake Diekman.
That said, the A’s needed a comeback after Yusmeiro Petit allowed three runs in his one-third of an inning.
Nonetheless, this was the best bullpen in baseball this season.
The A’s ranked first in baseball with a 2.72 bullpen ERA, third with a 3.64 FIP and ninth with a 4.27 xFIP. For good measure, they checked in at sixth with a 3.86 SIERA.
With a low BABIP against and a high strand rate, the A’s bullpen was probably due to regress some, and we saw that earlier in this series. You also question weather Hendricks is even available tonight after working three innings just 24 hours ago.
Nonetheless, it’s a bullpen that’s been there in spades this season and something manager Bob Melvin has a lot of faith in.
Whether it’s Greinke, Javier or both in this series, I would expect the Astros bullpen to be a big factor in this one again today.
It was a bullpen that was lights-out across the first four games of these playoffs, going in excess of 16 innings without allowing a run and allowing just four hits in the process. The ‘pen was dominant against the Twins and held the A’s in check as well… until yesterday.
The A’s got the this Astros bullpen for five earned runs in 4.2 innings while they also walked five times and struck out just four while Pinder’s homer came off reliever Josh James.
After a 16-inning run of scoreless ball, we knew it was only a matter of time before the bullpen surrendered some offense, but I especially expected this Astros bullpen to get roughed up ASAP.
It’s an injury-depleted group to begin with and while they managed to remain roughly league average this season despite the various ailments – including lost-for-the-season closer Roberto Osuna – the numbers just weren’t anything to write home about.
The Astros ranked 15th with a 4.39 bullpen ERA this season and 14th with a 4.45 FIP, but also 22nd with a 4.82 xFIP and 24th with a 4.55 SIERA.
Both James and left-hander Brooks Raley were used heavily yesterday while fellow lefty Blake Taylor also saw action.
It should be a heavy right-handed day for this Astros bullpen, but after seeing their magical four-game run come to and end with authority yesterday, I’m not sure I have much faith in this group today.
A’s vs. Astros ALDS Game 4 Pick
The regular-season showing between these two clubs wasn’t even close, but this series has certainly been far tighter as the Astros are clearly playing their best baseball of the season, especially at the plate.
That said, the A’s will push this series the distance today.
Montas has had his ups and downs with the Astros, but he is the better pitcher at this moment than either of Greinke or Javier. Greinke isn’t 100% healthy, struggled mightily down the stretch of the regular season and labored in his lone postseason start to this point against the Twins.
I also have very little faith in this Astros bullpen. They pitched well over their heads throughout the first four games, but saw that regression come yesterday and I think the A’s know they can hit this bullpen now. It’s a young and inexperience group as opposed to what the A’s come at you with, and I think the experience prevails with the A’s boasting a sizeable bullpen advantage here.
Additionally, the nine-run outburst from yesterday is going to give them a ton of confidence at the plate in this one. They have to find a way to quiet the Astros’ big bats, but Oakland wins this one and send this series to Game 5.