With neither starting pitcher going the required six innings to factor into the win-decision, it was up to the guys with the best seats in the house.
The relievers in the bullpen would more than likely rather remain seated comfortably; spitting seeds while the starter beats all the hitters early so they know how to attack them better later on.
Game four of the ALCS did not yield that result.
For the home team, Charlie Morton lasted just two and a third innings in his first postseason action since closing out the final four innings of game seven of last year’s World Series. In doing that, he became the first pitcher ever with a pair of game-seven victories in the same postseason.
For the visitors, Rick Porcello gave the Sox relief staff four innings of work, leaving much of the heavy lifting to the group of pitchers vying to grab the W next to their name by the end of it.
Each manager had to construct a puzzle utilizing pieces in the shape of which pitcher matches up against which hitter.
Four of the relievers that Houston manager A.J. Hinch called upon to exit the confines of the pen had combined to not allow any runs over 12.1 innings this postseason.
Hinch started with Josh James, a 25-year old rookie, who’s first postseason appearance was in game two of the championship series where the only inning he pitched he let up a single run.
He chewed up the biggest chunk, going three and two thirds innings allowing a trio of runs to score before giving way to the four-man band that had yet to allow a run this year.
Ryan Pressly and Lance McCullers Jr. both saw their streaks snapped albeit surrendering a singular run each. By the time they left the game though, it was still not out of hand at 8-5 heading to the bottom of the eighth.
Even though Red Sox closer Craig Kimbrel had never secured more than a four-out save, his number was called upon to possibly record the final six outs instead.
Bregman was hit with a pitch and the Astros got him around the bases to make it a two-run game although Marwin Gonzalez went down swinging to send it to the final inning.
Tony Sipp and Collin McHugh worked the bases loaded full of Red Sox but eventually escaped unscathed but soon enough, the base were loaded with Astros instead.
Kimbrel got the first out of the ninth and then issued a trio of walks, half of the amount he had given up in 13.1 previous innings of his postseason career.
Sitting in the on-deck circle was the leadoff hitter for game four whose average was sitting at .350 when he walked to the plate with the bases juiced.
On the first pitch he saw, Bregman sent a screaming line drive to shallow left field, but Andrew Benintendi laid out with a slide to snag the ball before it hit the ground to end the game and move the visitors one game closer to the next stage.
Both of the bullpens factored majorly into the game as James was dealt the loss when it was all said and done. There are very few things to turn to when dealing with a loss and Hinch had to give credit where credit was due.
“They're a relentless lineup … So are we,” he said. “This game was incredibly good on both sides - great at-bats, great plays, obviously we were inches away from the ball going to the wall, we probably win, and it's a completely different press conference. But that's not how the game plays out.”
The Astros now have their backs against the wall facing elimination in their home park in game five.