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.

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Another tough loss for Houston. Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans lost again as their road game ineptitude continues. Former Texans stars DeAndre Hopkins and J.J. Watt helped the Cardinals to the 31-5 victory.

1. The lack of talent is getting exposed earlier and earlier each week. The Texans have seen games slip away faster and faster from them each week. The team is overmatched almost everywhere.

2. Penalties remain a problem for the Texans. It seems like clockwork the team gets an illegal motion or illegal formation each week. Jordan Akins torpedoed a drive with a chop block. Max Scharping erased a positive play with a hold.

3. Davis Mills had some solid moments, but again, this team isn't good. It is hard to assess Mills with this team. He's making quicker decisions but he doesn't have the time or the players to make big plays.

4. The offensive line stinks. The interior of the line is still a mess and with Laremy Tunsil down the edges find themselves shaky as well. The running backs don't block well. The blocking tight ends don't block well. It is bad football in what was supposed to be a much-improved unit.

5. Desmond King was the best returner in the preseason. The team elected to give Andre Roberts an opportunity for a few games, but with his departure, the duties went to King. King is the most successful returner the Texans have had in a long while. Yes, it is that clear after just one game.

6. Max Scharping was benched in favor of Justin McCray. McCray produced similar levels of success. Scharping was benched last year for a journey-man veteran as well. The former second-round pick isn't getting it done.

7. Speaking of former second-round picks, Lonnie Johnson had an interception. That was the highlight of his day. Otherwise, Johnson frequently has me asking "what is Lonnie Johnson doing?" The former second-round pick at cornerback has been less than impressive at safety. Johnson seems to frequently be out of position or making the wrong choice in coverage.

8. DeAndre Hopkins had a solid day against the team that traded him away. Hopkins hauled in seven catches for 53 yards and a touchdown. After he scored, Hopkins looked to bring his hands together and mimic a prayer motion. I don't anticipate this was a nod to Arian Foster but perhaps could this have been about Jack Easterby?

9. The Texans had some sacks, but little of that action came when the game was close. Jonathan Greenard added two sacks to his total. The success Greenard is having is frustrating when you consider he couldn't get on the field last season. Charles Omenihu returned to action and had some pressures for the defense.

10. During the game reports surfaced that the Panthers might be interested in trading for Deshaun Watson. It was also reported by the Houston Chronicle Watson had vetoed a trade to Philadelphia, so the Eagles will not be involved in the Watson sweepstakes. The Panthers can only trade two first-round picks. The Miami Dolphins have three first-round picks they can trade for Deshaun Watson.

11. The Texans decided on a "culture" head coach in David Culley. His team has looked lifeless on the road. While the Texans took their beating, the Lions gave it their all against a good Rams team. Detroit is winless, but they play harder and better than the Texans. It grows clearer each week "culture" is meaningless if the team can't win.

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