Astros fend off Rays to stave off elimination in ALCS

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Like any proper bad guy, the Astros won’t go without a fight.

The Astros staved off elimination for at least one night — and avoided a sweep — with a 4-3 win over Tampa Bay in Game 4 of the ALCS on Wednesday night in San Diego, as the Rays have a 3-1 series lead.

“Nobody’s ready to go home,’’ Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “I’m not ready to go home. We’re ready to go to Dallas [for the World Series].”

On Wednesday, George Springer delivered the go-ahead homer in the fifth and Baker lived up to his reputation as a manager not tied to numbers and stats by leaving Zack Greinke in to finish the sixth inning despite the right-hander having not lasted that deep into a game in more than a month.

It added up to the Astros staying alive at Petco Park as they attempt to get to the World Series for the third time in four years.

After Springer put the Astros up with a monstrous two-run blast to left with one out in the fifth off Tampa Bay starter Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay threatened in the top of the sixth. With two on and one out, Baker went to the mound as closer Ryan Pressley warmed up in the bullpen.

Greinke’s night appeared to be coming to an end, but after a vote of confidence from catcher Martin Maldonado, Baker decided to stick with Greinke against Randy Arozarena, who already homered in the game and who Baker called “the hottest hitter in the playoffs.”

George  Spinger belts the go-ahead two-run homer to lead the Astros to a 4-3 Game 4 win over the Rays.
George Spinger belts the go-ahead two-run homer to lead the Astros to a 4-3 Game 4 win over the Rays.Getty Images

“Usually, I don’t change my mind [on the way to the mound], but I hadn’t had my mind really made up til I saw the look in Zack’s eyes,’’ Baker said. “[I said,] ‘OK, you got it, then.’ It was more old-school and doing what I thought was right and we came out ahead.”

The gamble paid off, as Greinke struck out Arozarena — with some help from a questionable call from first base umpire Tim Timmons on a check swing for strike three.

Ji-Man Choi followed with a slow grounder toward shortstop that went for an infield single, as Carlos Correa was shifted near second base.

Still, with the bases loaded, Baker stuck with Greinke and the 36-year-old whiffed another ALDS hero, Mike Brosseau, with a 3-2 changeup.

“I don’t know,’’ Baker said of the move. “Sometimes they work and sometimes they don’t.”

Greinke appreciated being kept in the game and seemed to criticize the previous regime that was ousted because of the scandal.

“I was surprised for sure,’’ Greinke said. “It was nice to have someone have confidence in me. Since I’ve been here, they haven’t seemed to have confidence in my ability.”

Even with Baker’s decision-making and Greinke’s performance, the Astros barely held on in the ninth.

Cristian Javier pitched two scoreless innings before Pressly entered after Javier walked Choi to lead off the ninth. Pressly retired the first two batters before Willy Adames nearly tied the game with a double to left-center that just missed being a two-run homer. Choi scored to get the Rays within a run and Adames moved to third on a wild pitch, but Pressly got Yoshi Tsutsugo on a fly ball to right.

Jose Altuve homered and had an RBI double — after he committed three costly errors in his previous two games — before the Rays tied the game on Arozarena’s homer off Greinke in the fourth.

Now, the Astros just need to win three more in a row.

“We’re one step closer to the top of the mountain,’’ Baker said. “We’ve got a couple steep cliffs the next couple of days.”

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