After seven innings in Game 4 of their ALDS against the Kansas City Royals, the Houston Astros were leading 6-2, in need of six outs to advance to their first ALCS.
However, after a stunning late-game collapse by the usually reliable Houston bullpen, the Astros must now regroup as they head to Kansas City for a winner-takes-all Game 5.
The game is sure to be an excellent one after four very close games to start the series.
The teams split the first two games in Kansas City with the Astros winning Game 1, 5-2, and the Royals coming from behind to win in Game 2 by a score of 5-4.
Houston won Game 3 at home behind Dallas Keuchel's great pitching, toppling Kansas City 4-2 before their collapsing in Game 4, allowing seven runs in the final two innings to drop the potential series-clincher, 9-6.
There has not been a blowout in this series yet so those who tune in for the deciding Game 5 on Wednesday should be in for a great game.
Colin McHugh (19-7, 3.89 ERA) takes the mound for Houston for the second time in this series. McHugh started Game 1 and recorded the victory with six solid innings of two-run ball. Though manager A.J. Hinch hasn't talked about the possibility, Houston fans must be wondering if Hinch would call for their ace, Keuchel, who already has two wins this postseason, to come out of the bullpen on two days of rest. However, that would be only if the reliable McHugh has an abnormally bad outing. No Kansas City hitters have much experience against McHugh; most of them faced him for the first time in Game 1. Ben Zobrist (2-5) is the only batter with multiple hits and one of two with more than three at-bats.
Though Kansas City has not officially announced their Game 5 starter, it is almost certainly going to be Johnny Cueto, who will be going on 3-days rest. Game 1 starter Yordano Ventura started Game 4 leaving nobody else ready to start except Cueto in Game 5.
Cueto is 11-13 with a 3.44 ERA but struggled in his Game 2 start, surrendering four runs over six innings. Thanks to a Royals' comeback, Cueto did not take the loss, but he will need to pitch better than he did in Game 2 if Kansas City wants to advance. Overall, Cueto does not have a track record of postseason success; he is 0-2 with a 5.52 ERA in his career in the playoffs. Having come over from the National League in July, after being traded from the Cincinnati Reds, Cueto has little experience facing these Houston hitters so it'll be interesting to see if they have the same success against him they enjoyed in Game 2.
Houston would have much preferred cruising to a Game 4 victory, but they have forced themselves to take the tough road by going to Kansas City's Kauffman Stadium for their clinching victory.
If Houston wins Game 5, their historic bullpen collapse will be forgotten; however, if they lose, that collapse will be talked about, analyzed, and called the reason for their series loss.
It should be a great game, so, sit back and enjoy the ride.