Astros ride home run parade to 7-2 win, lead series with Indians 1-0

Alex Bregman (right) got the Astros started with a solo home run and also later drove in a run on a single. Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Astros overpowered the Indians on Friday afternoon, winning 7-2 to kick off the ALDS. The Astros picked right up where they left off in the postseason of 2017, utilizing multiple home runs and solid pitching to get a Game 1 win at home to go up 1-0 in the ALDS.

Alex Bregman, Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Martin Maldonado hit solo homers to go with two RBIs from Josh Reddick, backing up a strong start from Justin Verlander and efficient work from the bullpen. Verlander went 5.1 innings to go with 2 earned runs and seven strikeouts in the win.

Justin Verlander started the postseason off by getting Francisco Lindor to pop out to shallow center field for the first out. Verlander then worked around a two-out walk, getting a groundout to end the inning. Corey Kluber also issued a two-out walk in the bottom of the inning, to Alex Bregman, but was able to strand him to end the inning.

In the top of the second, Verlander kept the game scoreless with a quick 1-2-3 inning, getting a strikeout, groundout, and fly out on 10 pitches. Marwin Gonzalez led the bottom of the inning off by taking first base after an inside pitch grazed his jersey, then moved to second after Kluber did the same against Tyler White with one out. They'd both get stranded, though, after a double play grounded into by Josh Reddick.

Yan Gomes gave Verlander a battle to start the third, a ten-pitch battle that ended in a strikeout, followed by two more as Verlander would strike out the side. Kluber kept the game gridlocked at 0-0 after the bottom of the inning, getting three quick outs on just 8 pitches.

After the Indians were retired in order again by Verlander in the top of the inning, it was Bregman who notched the first hit and run of the game, a solo home run to the Crawford Boxes in left, making it a 1-0 Astros lead to lead off the bottom of the fourth. Yuli Gurriel was next and worked a walk, advanced to second on a single by White, then scored on a two-out RBI single by Josh Reddick to extend the lead to 2-0 before Kluber could end the inning.

Verlander kept his rhythm going strong, working well with the lead in the top of the fifth with two strikeouts and a fly out to keep Cleveland hitless. Like Bregman the inning before, George Springer took Kluber deep to lead off the bottom of the fifth to make it 3-0, and with the blood in the water Jose Altuve followed with one of his own to make it back-to-back homers and put Houston ahead 4-0. Despite getting a couple of outs from the next two batters, Marwin Gonzalez's two-out single would be the end of the line for Kluber, finishing with four runs in his four and two-thirds innings of work. Adam Cimber would be first out of the bullpen and would get the final out after Gonzalez got caught stealing second.

Verlander finally allowed the Indians to get their first hit of the game to lead off the sixth, then after a one-out single found himself in his first scoring threat of the game. After walking the next batter to load the bases, and at 102 pitches, A.J. Hinch would come out of the dugout and make the call to bring in Ryan Pressly. Pressly would put his first pitch in the dirt, a wild pitch that would score the runner from third and give Cleveland their first run, making it 4-1. Pressly would get a ground ball for the second out, seceding another run to put the Indians within two at 4-2 before getting a strikeout to end the extended half-inning. Cimber returned to the mound in the bottom half of the inning, getting two more outs before another call to the Indians bullpen to bring in Cody Allen who was able to get the third.

In the top of the seventh, Pressly stayed in the game and threw a strong inning to retire the Indians in order. With Allen still on the mound in the bottom of the inning, Martin Maldonado gave Houston more padding to their lead with the Astros' fourth solo home run of the day to make it 5-2. A single by Springer in the next at-bat ended Allen's appearance and brought in Trevor Bauer from the bullpen. Springer moved to second on a groundout by Altuve, then scored on an RBI-single by Bregman, though Bregman would get caught between bases for the second out. Gurriel made it back-to-back hits with a two-out double and was left stranded, but the Astros still had their lead back to four runs in the 6-2 game.

Lance McCullers Jr. was next out of the pen for Houston and was able to get three quick outs in the top of the eighth to put them three outs away from the win. Tyler White hit a one-out double into the left-field corner off of Dan Otero in the bottom of the inning, then was pinch-run for by Myles Straw whose speed came in handy to score on a single up the middle by Reddick to make the lead 7-2 before a double play sent the game to the final inning.

Roberto Osuna took over in the top of the ninth and worked around a leadoff single by getting the next three batters out to end the game and start the playoffs off with a win. 

Game 2: The ALDS remains in Houston for Game 2 tomorrow afternoon at 3:37 PM Central, and can be seen on TBS. We'll get another high-profile pitching matchup with Gerrit Cole going for the Astros opposite of Carlos Carrasco for the Indians in a battle of strikeout artists. The Astros will try to utilize the home-field advantage to get out to a 2-0 lead in the series so that they only have to win one of the next three and keep the Indians from making it a best-of-3 series.

Alvarez is the third in franchise history to get the award

Astros' Yordan Alvarez wins AL Rookie of the Year

Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

As expected, the MLB announced on Monday that the winner of the 2019 American League Rookie of the Year Award is Yordan Alvarez of the Houston Astros. It comes as no surprise, considering Alvarez's performance since being called up on June 9th of this season was powerful, to say the least. He beats out the two other finalists: John Means of the Baltimore Orioles and Brandon Lowe of the Tampa Bay Rays.

After dominating at the AAA level for the Round Rock Express where he led the minors in home runs (23) and RBIs (71) while hitting for a .343 average and 1.184 OPS over his 56 games before being promoted to the major leagues, he brought the same power to Houston's lineup. He wasted no time showing what he was capable of, notching his first career home run in his second at-bat at Minute Maid Park in his debut game.

He followed that by hitting home runs in four of his first five games and going on to slash .317 / .406 / .733 for a 1.139 OPS from his debut through the end of June, tenth best in all of the majors over that span. Though he finished the month with seven homers in just 60 at-bats, he also maintained his ability to drive in runs, notching 21 RBIs in his first sixteen games. He slowed down slightly in July, banging just five homers in 75 ABs to go along with 15 RBIs, though increasing his average to .333.

He picked the power back up in August and September, though, finishing the final two months of the regular season with a combined 15 home runs and 42 RBIs over 178 at-bats. That ended his regular season with 27 homers, 78 RBIs, a 1.067 OPS, and .313 average, a line that would have been decent for a full season, much less one that started in early June. One of the shining moments of his debut year came in the matchup with the Orioles on August 10th, a night when the Astros put up a franchise-record 23 runs, seven of which came off the bat of Alvarez on a three-homer night including a grand slam.

Although not factored into the voting, Alvarez did contribute in the postseason for Houston, though not at the same level as his regular-season numbers. He had just one home run in the playoffs, a two-run blast in World Series Game 5 against the Nationals in D.C. to help Houston take that game 7-1. He had just one other RBI in October, in ALDS Game 1 against the Rays, giving him just three total along with the one homer to leave his postseason stat line as something to improve on.

Nonetheless, Alvarez's power is something that Houston will gladly put in their DH spot as long as he can continue to drive in runs and be a difference-maker in a game with one swing of his hefty bat. Yordan is the third player in franchise history to win the Rookie of the Year award, joining Jeff Bagwell, who took home the honor for the National League in 1991 and Carlos Correa, who also won in the American League in 2015. The future is bright for this left-handed slugger and the Houston Astros as a result.

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