From there, Reliever Cristian Javier worked on two goalless innings, walking up to the leadoff man in ninth before Ryan Pressly spelled him and double tossed Willy Adames’ RBI off the wall. Pressed the bond run in third place. So the Astros pushed a team together that chugged right past them.

Now we’ll see if any of the formulas are repeatable.

The numbers were stacked with the rays in front of the first pitch. They had won Tyler Glasnow’s last eleven games, going back to early August. They were the 39th team to take a 3-0 lead in a best-of-seven series, and 37 – except for the New York Yankees in 2004 – had left the job. It meant that if both rich and recent history were to repeat themselves, the rays would immediately release the astros. Then game 4 immediately mirrored game 3.

Nobody had interviewed José Altuve’s bat. In fact, Altuve clocked a solo homer in three of the first four innings here to bring Houston forward. It was another tall fastball, 100 mph on the letters, that Altuve took out to the left. Glasnow mumbled something into his glove as he left the hill. The Astros had an air of traction. But unlike in Games 1, 2, and 3, there was more where that came from.

Swing back to Altuve. He’d spent most of that week on the wrong side of mistakes. A throwing mistake brought the Rays to a 4-2 win and brought them 2-0 up. Another throwing error resulted in Tampa Bay’s five innings in a 5-2 win on Tuesday. Reporters asked manager Dusty Baker about the Yips. Baker, a baseball player, couldn’t tell if Altuve had it. All he knew was that the Astros needed to recover in order to recover. They needed their star second baseman to play like one.

And he did. After that homer in the first inning, Altuve tore an RBI double in the third. The Astros advanced two runs. Zack Greinke crossed the beams. Everything clicked until a megaphone went off in the airy distance.

The first sound was a siren, as if someone had set off the fire alarm in a nearby building. But it should signal the start of a midgame message. A man with a megaphone had a few things to say. First he introduced the Astro’s fraud scandal, with his voice cutting through the false noise of the crowd. He mentioned that they illegally stole signs in 2017 and 2018. He told them, if they were even listening, that “the baseball community has not forgotten your transgressions.” Then he went through the list.

“José Altuve … you are a deceiver, shame on you.”

“Carlos Correa … you are a cheat, shame on you.”

“Josh Reddick … you are a cheat, shame on you.”

Back on the field, where every muffled charge could be heard, Greinke Rays outfielder Austin Meadows gave a single. Megaphone Man thanked his audience and retired for the night. And on cue Randy Arozarena drew a homer to the left.

With that momentum, he became the third rookie with five homers in a postseason. Arozarena came up with eight additional goals and an average of 0.462 in these playoffs. In the Rays’ dugout, outfielder Brett Phillips wrote an acrostic poem on a tiny white whiteboard. With RANDY it was written: “Rakes All Night Day Year”.

But the next big hit was Springer’s. Springer crushed that two-run shot, one inning after Arozarena tied it, taking the Astro’s lead back for Homer after the season. His 19th came from a fastball that left Glasnow’s hand at 98 mph. It set up Baker’s tightrope act for the next half.

As soon as the rays hit successive singles, the manager made his way to the hill. Pressly was warm and made it halfway out of Houston’s bullpen. But Baker wasn’t quite ready for Pressly. After a short conversation, he went to Greinke to face Arozarena as a starting point. Greinke responded by slapping him on a borderline check swing.

That was two outs with two. Ji-Man Choi then dribbled an infield single to load the bases. Greinke looked at Baker and thought the 71-year-old would emerge from the dugout. Greinke had not completed six innings since September 8. He hadn’t surpassed 90 pitch since then. Baker, however, pushed him to another batsman, utility man Mike Brosseau.

And when Greinke hit him too – with a change below the zone – catcher Martin Maldanado clenched his free hand, threw his glove through the air, pointed to Greinke and nodded as if his head were a greased seesaw. Greinke, usually with a stone face, the guy who shrugs his shoulders at any moment, allowed himself to grin. Baker and his club had juggled fire, stuck their fingers near the flames, and came out unburned and breathing. You have to do that three more times.


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