We’re on to Game 4 in this ALDS matchup between the Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros after the A’s comeback effort in Game 3 to stay alive. The Athletics will turn to right-hander Frankie Montas Thursday, while the Astros have yet to decide starters, although it appears to be between Zack Greinke (sore right arm), Christian Javier, and Luis Garcia.
My eyes are on Oakland to push this to a decisive fifth game. Remember, given the circumstances of this year, MLB has restructured their playoffs, and the ALDS is a best-of-five series.
The Long Ball Series
These clubs have belted a combined 18 home runs in three games, and the Athletics are second in this postseason with 13. The A’s have the explosiveness to keep it going in Game 4 against what is potentially a bullpen game for the Astros.
It was the bullpen that had started the series hot for Houston, but Game 3 might be a breaking point, as they blew a 7-4 lead headed into the 7th. Houston’s bats have come alive in this series after their pitching helped them advance past the Twins in the wild-card round, and Houston hitters can’t afford to cool off now if they hope to advance.
Frankie Montas vs. Cristian Javier
This will be the first start for Montas in these playoffs. He has made just one appearance out of the bullpen, going two innings, allowing one run, and striking out two against the White Sox.
In 2020, the 27-year-old righty started 11 games and threw 63 innings, resulting in a 5.60 ERA, 1.51 WHIP, 53 strike outs, and 10 home runs allowed. His up-and-down year gave him a five-game slump sandwiched between a nice stretch of starts.
Montas looked sharp to end the regular season and delivered a fine relief effort in the Wild Card round. Game 4 will be his opportunity to put the mid-season slump in the rearview mirror and announce his arrival as the ace of this rotation. A title many fans thought was his at the beginning of the season.
Montas made three starts against Houston, which helps offer a view into the range of possibilities on hand for this elimination game.
The first appearance was a gem, going seven scoreless two-hit innings in just 86 pitches, although it is important to note that Houston star George Springer was not in the lineup. His next two appearances are a mixed bag. One outing he was knocked out in the 4th after letting up five runs, and the other, he outdueled Zack Greinke in a short doubleheader game, holding Houston to two runs in five innings.
All in all, Montas has shown capable of handling this Houston lineup. His final numbers in these three games: 4.11 ERA, 15 ⅓ innings, 14 strikeouts, two home runs.
Overall, I like Montas in this game going against the righty-dominant Houston lineup. He has held right-handed hitters to a .198 average this year.
Dusty Baker is apparently leaning toward a bullpen game for Game 4.
In the shortened regular season, Oakland was the superior team to Houston, and while this matters less now that we’re in these unique playoffs, I think the A’s have the bats and the starting pitcher advantage to push this to a fifth game.
It will be interesting to see if the Astros can rekindle the bullpen dominance they displayed in their first four postseason games. Two of Houston’s best relievers, Enoil Paredes and Ryan Pressly, should be ready to go after taking Game 3 off. The key to an Athletics victory will be getting ahead early and trusting in their bullpen to hold the game and stave off Houston’s big bats.
My pick: Athletics moneyline