If the Astros battle back to win the American League Championship Series over the Rangers, Thursday night in Arlington might forever be remembered as The Batting Glove Game. 

The backdrop looked different in Game 4, with the roof open at Globe Life Field for the first time since May 21. The end result, however, looked the same. The Astros spent the evening pulverizing baseballs into the night sky in another road onslaught that evened the series.

Through four games of the ALCS, the road team in the series has never trailed. 

Through three innings Thursday, however, it still looked like anyone’s game. 

Beyond the home runs, including José Abreu‘s 438-foot, game-changing three-run shot, don’t forget these five difference-making plays from a back-and-forth bout that became a runaway 10-3 Astros win:

1. Top of 5th, two on, no outs — HOU 7, TEX 3: “The Batting Glove Tag”

Despite Abreu’s gargantuan blast, the Rangers remained within reach and were mounting a response. 

Leody Taveras and Marcus Semien both singled to start the fifth inning, putting the tying run on deck when Corey Seager pulled a missile 108.6 mph off the bat screaming toward first base. Semien’s first reaction was to take a step toward second base before quickly retreating, but that split second made all the difference. 

The liner went straight into the glove of Abreu, who was closer to first base than Semien was when he caught the ball. Semien made every effort to return to reach the bag and was initially called safe as he slid face first back into first base. But upon further review, Abreu’s tag glanced the tip of the batting glove hanging out of Semien’s back pocket.

It was a backbreaker for the Rangers’ comeback chances — or “buzzard luck,” as Rangers manager Bruce Bochy described it. With that double play, the Astros’ 80% win probability at the time jumped to 90%.

The Rangers finished the night with four batted balls of at least 105.9 mph, all of which were caught, including the 106 mph line drive to center field that followed from Evan Carter

None were as devastating, however, as this missed opportunity. 

2. Bottom of 3rd, two on, one out — HOU 3, TEX 3 

While the home team has never led in this series, there was a point Thursday night when the Rangers were favored to win. 

After Seager hit a game-tying home run in the third inning, Carter and Adolis García followed with singles that knocked starter Jose Urquidy out of the game. Then Mitch Garver swung at the first pitch he saw from reliever Ryne Stanek, rolling over into an inning-ending double play. 

It was at that point the win probability swung back to even. It would never go back in favor of the Rangers. 

3. Top of 4th, no on, no out — HOU 3, TEX 3 

Of course, the Abreu home run was what doomed the Rangers. But it was everything that preceded the blast off rookie Cody Bradford that put Texas in the danger zone. 

Dane Dunning had No. 9 hitter Martín Maldonado down 0-2 in the count to start the inning before missing with a slider and three straight sinkers to turn the lineup over. He then issued a walk to José Altuve, who has found his rhythm again at Globe Life Field, and a single to Mauricio Dubon to load the bases with no outs. 

After striking out Alex Bregman, the Rangers — their options dwindling after Andrew Heaney failed to make it out of the first inning — turned to Bradford in high leverage in his third career postseason game. 

Bradford left a changeup over the heart of the plate that Yordan Álvarez didn’t miss, pummeling the hardest-hit ball of the Astros’ night 401 feet toward center field. It would’ve been a grand slam in 17 ballparks, but not at Globe Life Field. The ball died at the warning track for a go-ahead sacrifice fly. 

The Rangers’ good fortune, however, would be short-lived. Bradford got away with the changeup to Álvarez. He did not get away with a fastball over the heart of the plate to Abreu, who broke the game open with the three-run blast. 

None of that would have been possible without the free passes to begin the inning.

Astros’ José Abreu CRUSHES three-run homer to go up 7-3 vs. Rangers

4. Top of 1st, no on, no out HOU 0, TEX 0 

OK, maybe this is cheating a little since it’s not just one play. But it helps explain the Astros’ success for reasons beyond the venue. 

The Astros have struggled to answer why they’ve been so productive at Globe Life Field, where they’ve scored 81 runs in nine games this year and 57 runs in their past five games since the start of September. But on Thursday, it was obvious: throw pitches down the middle, and it’ll be a long night. 

Houston started the game with an Altuve double, a Dubon single, a Bregman triple and an Álvarez single, leading the game 3-0 within 10 pitches of Heaney’s night and essentially eliminating the Rangers’ home-field advantage. 

Heaney had no command, recording just two outs and lasting only 22 pitches. The Astros could’ve put the game away that inning, but Dunning got Maldonado to strike out with the bases loaded. Still, there was a snowball effect. 

The Rangers’ bullpen vulnerabilities can be masked when Jordan Montgomery and Nathan Eovaldi routinely give them six innings. That’s not so easy when their starter can’t get out of the first inning. With Dunning also struggling with his command after piggybacking Heaney’s start, the Rangers’ thin bullpen was left open to a Houston fusillade.

5. Bottom of 2nd, one on, one out — HOU 3, TEX 1 

The Astros’ unrelenting attack was ultimately too much for Texas to overcome, but the Rangers didn’t lay down after Houston’s blitz. Had they completed the comeback, they could have pointed toward one play in the second inning as the catalyst. 

After a García solo shot got the Rangers on the board, Garver walked, Jonah Heim flew out and Nathaniel Lowe lofted a blooper the other way down the left-field line that had an expected batting average of .020 — the fourth-lowest of any batted ball in the game.

Chas McCormick graded out as one of Houston’s top defenders this year, but he was unable to make the play as the ball dropped in for a double, putting two runners in scoring position with one out. It was the antithesis to the run-saving catch made by Michael Brantley in left field the night prior, and it gave the Rangers an opening they failed to seize. 

Josh Jung followed with a towering drive to left field that went for a sacrifice fly — it would have been a homer at Minute Maid Park, per Statcast — and that would be the last productive Texas at-bat with runners in scoring position on the night. Taveras struck out swinging, and the Rangers would go hitless on the night in four chances with runners in scoring position. 

The Astros, meanwhile, finished 8-for-16 in the category to even the series, giving them home-field advantage that neither team appears to want. 

Rowan Kavner covers the Dodgers and MLB as a whole for FOX Sports. He previously was the Dodgers’ editor of digital and print publications. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner. 

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