Houston faces a familiar foe in the ALDS

ALDS Game 1 Preview: Astros vs. A's

Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images

They entered with a losing regular-season record and were underdogs in the ALWC series against the Twins. Yet, the Astros are making their fourth-straight ALDS appearance, and if they win it to advance further, their fourth-straight ALCS. Their opponent: the Oakland A's, who took seven of the ten regular-season games against Houston.

However, as we observed in the ALWC round, regular-season numbers and records do not matter all that much, especially with this series played at an empty Dodger Stadium in the MLB's version of a bubble. Sure, the A's may think they have a mental edge having beaten the Astros so much this year, but when you turn the switch on in a best-of-five playoff series, it's a new ballgame. Here are the facts of Monday's Game 1:

Game Facts

When: Monday October 5th, 3:07 PM Central

Where: Dodger Stadium - Los Angeles, California

TV: TBS

Streaming: Watch TBS App

Pitching Matchup: Lance McCullers Jr. vs. Chris Bassitt

Series: tied 0-0.

Series Schedule

Date & Time (Central)Pitching MatchupHome Team
Game 1Mon 10/5, 3:07 PMLance McCullers Jr. vs. Chris BassittA's
Game 2Tue 10/6, 3:37 PMFramber Valdez vs. Sean ManaeaA's
Game 3Wed 10/7, 2:35 PMTBD vs. TBDAstros
Game 4*Thu 10/8, 2:35 PMTBD vs. TBDAstros
Game 5*Fri 10/9, 2:35 PMTBD vs. TBDA's

All games played at Dodger Stadium.

* If necessary

Game Storylines

McCullers Jr. starts things off

After disposing of the Twins in two games, it allows the Astros to start a well-rested Lance McCullers Jr. in Game 1 of the ALDS. His last start was a four-inning tune-up against the Rangers on Saturday, September 26th, a scoreless start while striking out nine, looking very sharp. He faced Oakland once this year, starting the first part of a doubleheader on August 29th.

He went six of the seven innings in that game, earning the win by allowing just two runs (one unearned) as the Astros took that game 4-2. The opposing pitcher in that game? None other than Chris Bassitt, who will be on the mound for Oakland in Game 1. The Astros were able to chase him out of that game in the fourth inning after tagging him with two home runs, one a three-run shot by Kyle Tucker, the other a solo homer by Josh Reddick.

Houston has to stay poised

Yes, there's history between these two teams. The A's will continue to have a beef against the Astros for years to come regarding the sign-stealing scandal that they will view hindered their chances at success in the division. Then there's the incident earlier this season between Ramon Laureano and Alex Cintron that resulted in the all-out brawl between the two teams and eventual suspensions.

The Astros have enough going against them with most of the baseball world outside of Houston hoping for an early exit from the postseason; they can't combine that angst with losing their composure against the A's and expect to play their best baseball. If the A's get something going early in Game 1, or this series, that gives them the reason to chirp at or show up the Astros, or vice versa for that matter, the Astros will do well to shift their focus to the next play on the field to avoid getting caught up in the dramatics. They can then say what they need to say, with national media's approval or not, in the post-game and post-series interviews.

Be sure to check SportsMap after the final out for an in-depth recap of the game, and follow me on Twitter for updates and reactions throughout each playoff game: @ChrisCampise

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Houston gets the best of the Dodgers

Astros behind McCullers Jr. get shutout win in hostile Dodger Stadium

Yordan Alvarez added some big insurance runs against the Dodgers on Tuesday night. Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Having dropped two of three in San Francisco against the league record-leading Giants over the weekend, the Astros exited an off day on Monday and entered a hostile environment at Dodger Stadium in the first of a two-game series on Tuesday night. With some timely hits and an excellent start from their starter, Houston would grab the win.

Final Score: Astros 3, Dodgers 0

Astros' Record: 65-42, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (9-2)

Losing Pitcher: Walker Buehler (11-2)

Houston scores first as McCullers Jr. out-duels Buehler

After nearly turning the game's very first pitch around for a home run but instead going foul, Jose Altuve still started the game with a single in the top of the first. A double play would erase him, though, as the game remained scoreless into the top of the third. Martin Maldonado led that inning off with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch by Walker Buehler, then scored on an RBI double by Michael Brantley, putting Houston ahead 1-0.

Houston threatened again in the top of the fourth, getting two on with two outs, bringing up Martin Maldonado with an empty base, which the Dodgers would use by intentionally walking him to get to Lance McCullers Jr., who grounded out to strand all three runners. He made up for it on the mound, though, out-dueling Buehler, who finished six innings while allowing a run by getting into the seventh scoreless. He would get two outs into that frame while giving up a single and a walk, leaving two on base for Blake Taylor, who came in to get the third out. McCullers Jr.'s final line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 9 K, 110 P.

Alvarez adds insurance as Astros take the opener in LA

Clinging to the one-run lead in the top of the eighth, Carlos Correa worked a one-out walk to bring Yordan Alvarez to the plate, who demolished a 415-foot two-run homer to add two big insurance runs, extending the lead to 3-0. Kendall Graveman took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the eighth and, despite allowing a leadoff single and hitting a batter, was able to finish a scoreless inning.

With Ryan Pressly on the paternity list, Houston handed the ball to Ryne Stanek to close things out in the bottom of the ninth. He would get the job done, earning the save by retiring the Dodgers in order, giving the Astros the win at the dismay of the fans in Los Angeles.

Up Next: This short series's second and final game will begin thirty minutes earlier on Wednesday at 8:40 PM Central. For the Dodgers, they will get the debut of Max Scherzer (8-4, 2.76 ERA), while Jake Odorizzi (4-5, 4.30 ERA) will take the mound for the Astros.

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