ARLINGTON, Texas — Globe Life Field was silent except for the pounding of the dugout railing and roars of pure exultation emanating from behind third base. José Abreu‘s three-run home run hadn’t even landed in the left-field second deck when Houston’s dugout went berserk. A blur of orange jerseys clapped one another on the back and rushed to the top step of the dugout to greet Abreu, who was still stoically rounding the bases. 

The flurry of excitement represented more than a significant lead over their in-state division rivals. Abreu’s fourth home run of this postseason, which sealed a 10-3 Astros win over the Rangers, also meant the defending champions had done it; they’d erased their 2-0 deficit in the American League Championship Series. This turbulent best-of-seven series, which has yet to see a team win on its home field and very well might go the distance, will enter Friday’s Game 5 tied at 2-2. 

So, did anyone really believe Houston was panicking? 

Feeling the pressure? Sure. Concerned with the Rangers’ offensive strength? Definitely. But panic never entered the Astros’ stratosphere, not when they had Yordan Álvarez‘s edge and Abreu’s compelling plate presence. Not when José Altuve — playing in his 100th career playoff game — is the backbone of their lineup. Not when their 2023 efforts in Arlington have yielded a mythical scoring margin in their favor. 

After the Rangers took home-field advantage by grabbing the first two games of this series in Houston’s house, the Astros have since played and looked like the aggressors of this all-Texas clash. 

It was always going to be dangerous to let the Astros back into this series, but it’s not like the Rangers could stop them. Bruce Bochy’s thin pitching staff has been exposed in Games 3 and 4 of the ALCS. After Max Scherzer’s five-run, four-inning clunker Wednesday, Dodgers transplant Andrew Heaney didn’t even make it out of the first inning. As authoritative as Texas’ lineup has been, the mighty Astros have the best offense in the league when they’re getting production from their 7-8-9 hitters. 

The Astros knocked Heaney from his outing after he only made two outs and threw just 22 pitches. The Astros knocked fans from their seats and back to their cars by the seventh-inning stretch. What was once a rowdy 42,060 sellout crowd, the second-largest in Globe Life Field history, thinned out before the Rangers took their final at-bats of the night.

Texas did make things interesting after Heaney’s early exit. Home runs from Adolis García and Corey Seager, plus a sacrifice fly from Josh Jung that would’ve been a go-ahead home run at Minute Maid Park, forced Astros starter Jose Urquidy from the game after just 2.2 innings. With that, Game 4 became a bullpen game for both dugouts. The problem for the Rangers? Even in a bullpen game, the Astros held the clear advantage. 

Yordan Álvarez, Alex Bregman power Astros to early lead vs. Rangers

The Astros have suffocated their AL West foes in two games at Globe Life Field, but two factors remain for the Rangers to gain back the edge they once had. 

One, their lackluster starting pitching is finally behind them. Jordan Montgomery, who thrice struck out Álvarez in a spectacular outing against the Astros in Game 1, will get the ball again Friday (FS1, 5:07 p.m. ET). Right-hander Nathan Eovaldi will be waiting in Game 6. And two, now we know for sure this ALCS is going back to Houston’s house of horrors, where the Rangers already twice exploited the Astros’ offensive struggles at Minute Maid Park. 

Winning the series might only require one of these teams to simply win one game at home.

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar. 

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