NEW YORK -- With his team needing to get nine outs on Tuesday night to get within a game of reaching the World Series, Astros manager A.J. Hinch saw his bullpen put to the test more than it has been at any point in the postseason.Called upon to protect a
NEW YORK -- With his team needing to get nine outs on Tuesday night to get within a game of reaching the World Series, Astros manager A.J. Hinch saw his bullpen put to the test more than it has been at any point in the postseason.
Called upon to protect a three-run lead, Houston's bullpen faltered late in a 6-4 loss to the Yankees in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series presented by Camping World that evened the series at two games apiece.
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"We were trying to get outs," Hinch said. "I don't think there's anybody that's losing their job over this. They're the guys we're going with. These guys are getting outs. They have gotten outs for us all season."
Hinch pulled starter Lance McCullers after McCullers gave up a leadoff homer to Aaron Judge in the seventh inning that cut the Astros' lead to 4-1. Three of Houston's most reliable relievers -- Chris Devenski, Joe Musgrove and Ken Giles -- then combined to allow five runs and six hits in 1 1/3 innings.
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"It's not a great feeling," Giles said. "We had our chances, and we just didn't execute. They were very patient at the plate, laying off some good pitching from all three of us. Luke [Gregerson] came in there and did his job, did what he needed to do. We let a really good start get away from Lance. We should have taken advantage of that start, and we didn't execute."
Hinch called on Devenski to face Didi Gregorius after Judge's homer, and Gregorius tripled to left field and scored on a Gary Sanchez sac fly. Devenski walked lefty Greg Bird and was replaced by Musgrove, who recorded the final two outs in the seventh to keep the score at 4-2.
"Chris Devenski is really good against left-handed hitters," Hinch said. "At the beginning of the game, we definitely had plans to get Devo getting that pocket. I think coming in and Gregorius falling behind him and then getting the base hit set up the whole inning, and then the walk to Bird. Bird's a good hitter, and he laid off a couple of tough changeups. We just didn't get the results we wanted; we had the matchup we wanted."
This past season, Devenski recorded a 2.42 ERA against lefties, compared with 3.00 facing right-handed hitters. Lefties hit .111 off him; righties, .238.
Musgrove allowed consecutive singles to start the eighth and left with runners at second and third with no outs after Chase Headley fell rounding first base and managed to scurry to second before the Astros could tag him out. That's when Hinch went to Giles, his closer.
"I felt fine, I felt calm," Musgrove said. "I didn't feel overwhelmed. I just didn't really execute pitches that well. Looking back, I threw too many cutters to Headley. I felt like we had the outer half there, but I let it leak too much over the middle, I guess."
Brett Gardner hit an RBI groundout to make it 4-3, and Giles allowed the next four batters to reach; a game-tying double to left field by Judge and a tiebreaking two-run double by Sanchez put the Yanks ahead, 6-4.
"I'm always ready to go," Giles said. "It's just [that] they laid off some really good pitches and they were geared up, ready to go. I can't say nothing bad about them. Hats off to them -- finding holes and laying off some good pitching. Nothing I can do about it."
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.