Astros a big zero in key spots, one loss from WS elimination

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ATLANTA (AP) — Time and time again, the Houston Astros clogged the bases.

So much traffic, it looked like the notorious congestion on the Downtown Connecter that drives Atlanta commuters crazy.

Only for the Astros, hardly anyone ever got home.

Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve all had their chances Saturday night. But a big hit once again eluded the Astros and they fell to Atlanta 3-2 in Game 4 of the World Series, leaving them one loss from elimination.

Manager Dusty Baker even tried a novel approach with his lineup. He put good-hitting pitcher Zack Greinke in the eighth spot, ahead of catcher Martín Maldonado -- the only other time in World Series play that a pitcher didn’t bat ninth was in 1918, with a Red Sox lefty named Babe Ruth.

Greinke came through with a single, too.

But in the end, it didn’t matter. Bases loaded, runners at the corners, second and third — no matter the situation, the result didn’t change.

The team that led the majors in hitting this season, a club packed with All-Stars and the two top hitters in the AL batting race, couldn’t come through in the clutch.

Houston finished 0 for 8 with runners in scoring position, most of that in the early innings, and wound up stranding 11.

And just like that, the solidly favored Astros can get knocked out in Game 5 Sunday night.

Blanked 2-0 the previous night, Altuve and the Astros came out swinging.

Altuve led off with an infield single on the first pitch of the game, and the Astros then loaded the bases with one out against rookie Dylan Lee. Correa had his chance against reliever Kyle Wright but could only manage a soft RBI grounder and Kyle Tucker struck out.

The Astros failed to cash in when they had two on and one out in the second, with third baseman Austin Riley making a diving catch on Altuve's smash down the line. Greinke grounded out with the bases loaded to end the third.

Altuve homered in the fourth for a 2-0 lead. But by the time pinch-hitter Marwin Gonzalez lifted a routine fly with runners on the corners to end the fifth, it was clear the missed chances could easily come back to haunt them on Halloween eve.

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More AP MLB: https://apnews.com/hub/MLB and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

Ben Walker, The Associated Press

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