Houston is now 2-0

Astros stay hot at the plate in win over A's

Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After handily taking care of the A's in a lopsided 8-1 win on Opening Day, the Astros sent their same lineup out to try and stay undefeated on the young season on Friday night. In game number two, they sent Cristian Javier to the mound looking to continue the success he had in his rookie campaign in the shortened 2020 season.

Javier would not last as long as Houston would have hoped, but the Astros' offense, led by a strong performance from the top of the batting order, would get the job done to improve them to 2-0 on the early season.

Final Score: Astros 9, A's 5

Astros' Record: 2-0, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-0)

Losing Pitcher: Jesus Luzardo (0-1)

Astros find success their second time through the order

Much like the night before, the Astros were quiet at the plate the first time through the order, then gained traction the next time through. Recently-named leadoff man Jose Altuve led off the third by working a four-pitch walk, moved to third on a double by Michael Brantley, and then scored on a three-run home run by Alex Bregman, giving him one in each game so far this year and putting Houston in front 3-0.

They kept terrorizing Jesus Luzardo again in the fourth, starting with a leadoff solo homer by Yuli Gurriel followed later by Brantley's second double in as many innings, this one bringing in a run to make it a 5-0 lead and keeping him red hot at the plate. Oakland was able to find similar success their second time through the lineup as well against Cristian Javier, who started the night with three perfect innings then ran into trouble in the fourth.

Oakland knocks Javier out early

In the bottom of the fourth, Javier allowed a leadoff single followed by an RBI-triple, then later allowed a one-out sac fly to cut the lead to 5-2. A single in the next at-bat to put two on base prompted Dusty Baker to make the early pitching change, bringing in Bryan Abreu. Javier's final line: 3.2 IP, 3 H, 2 R, 2 ER, 0 BB, 4 K, 73 P.

Abreu was able to get the final out of the inning, a lengthy one, before returning for the fifth. He made quick work of Oakland, retiring three batters in order, sending the game along to the sixth. After a scoreless top-half, Abreu tried to keep his rhythm going in the bottom of the inning but had to work around a single and a walk to get through it to keep it 5-2.

Astros tack on runs in the ninth to secure the win

Thanks to an aggressive tag-up on a fly ball to the shortstop by Altuve, Houston extended their lead to four runs in the top of the seventh before moving on to their next reliever, Brooks Raley. Raley did not have the greatest stuff in his regular-season debut, giving up a leadoff walk that turned into a one-out, two-run home run to trim the lead to 6-4.

Joe Smith would complete the seventh, then Houston moved on to Blake Taylor, who would see a leadoff double come around to score and make it a one-run game after a couple of groundouts. Houston regained control of the momentum in the top of the ninth, starting with a leadoff single by Altuve, a double by Brantley, then an intentional walk to Bregman to load the bases with no outs.

Kyle Tucker was up next and brought in two runs with a single, which blasted past the shortstop into center field. Houston loaded the bases again with two out, then received some help from Myles Straw's speed to bring in another run. Ryan Pressly would come in for the bottom of the ninth, having already warmed up in preparation for a save opportunity, and closed out the win.

Up Next: Game three of this four-game series will get started at 3:07 PM Central on Saturday. Lance McCullers Jr. (3-3, 3.93 ERA in 2020), who just signed a five-year, $85 million extension with the Astros, will begin his 2021 season looking to provide a complete, healthy season for the first time since he underwent Tommy John surgery at the end of 2018. Oakland will counter with Cole Irvin, who came to the A's from the Phillies in an off-season deal.

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

ESPN Houston 97.5 FM
The Astros suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Yankees Thursday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

After an impressive two-game sweep of the NL-best Mets at home earlier in the week, the Astros took to the road to begin a four-game series with the league-best Yankees on Thursday night. To little surprise, the series started with a bang (no, not a trash can bang) in more ways than one, confirming that this series should be a must-watch this weekend.

New York's comeback proves no lead will be safe

Right from the get-go, the loud Yankee Stadium faithful had their chance to rain boos down on Jose Altuve before showing some pleasure as he led off the series by being hit by a pitch. They were quickly, though only temporarily, quieted as Altuve would come in to score two batters later on a three-run blast by Alex Bregman.

Three-run homers seemed to be a theme, as New York would get one of their own to tie the game off the bat of Giancarlo Stanton to tie the game, then Yordan Alvarez continued his dominant June by pushing the Astros back in front by three with another three-run bomb in the third, making it 6-3. That lead held through to the bottom of the ninth, where instead of holding it, Ryan Pressly issued two walks to set up the fourth homer of the game to tie things again before Aaron Judge would get a walk-off single to complete the impressive comeback.

Not only will we get to sit back and watch the slug-fest between Yordan and Judge this weekend, but it looks like with Alex Bregman swinging well again to round out the top of Houston's order, the Astros may be getting closer to their full power. So far in June, these two teams sit third and fourth in on-base percentage, with the Astros at .351 and the Yankees right behind at .350. That means we should continue to see scoring opportunities on both sides that can tilt momentum one way or the other as these lineups try to battle against the opposing pitcher.

How will the aces fare

Verlander vs. Judge, and Cole vs. Alvarez, need I say more? Although we won't see Justin Verlander go up against Gerrit Cole in the same game in this series (they should go head to head next Thursday, however), they will pitch on back-to-back days, with Houston's ace going Friday night and New York's on Saturday afternoon. Verlander is coming off his worst start of the year, a three and two-thirds inning outing where the White Sox put up seven runs, four earned, against him and knocked him out early to give him his third loss and increased his ERA from 1.94 to 2.30.

The last time he faced the Yankees was in the Bronx in the 2019 playoffs, in ALCS Game 5, where he went seven frames while allowing four runs, all on two homers in the first inning, which is all New York needed to grab the 4-1 victory to make it a 3-2 Houston lead in the series, which the Astros would go on to clinch in Game 6. So, with the double dose of bad taste in his mouth, it will be interesting to see if he can use that as the fuel to get back to the phenomenal form he's had this year or if the Yankees try to jump on him early like they did nearly three years ago.

Cole, meanwhile, is fresh off of two quality starts in a row against the Rays, where he allowed just one run on six hits with nineteen strikeouts over 13.1 innings of work. He's had his share of strife this season, though, including a seven-run shelling by the Twins earlier this month, along with a start in April where he couldn't make it through two innings against the Tigers. He's had success against his former club, most notably a complete-game shutout in Houston last July with twelve K's and holding the Astros to just three hits.

If the series opener was any indication, we are in for the treat of a playoff-caliber matchup, if not a potential ALCS preview that we may see in October. The Yankees showed why they have the best record and are the hottest team in baseball on Thursday night, but the Astros were only a good outing from their closer away from having a relatively lopsided win. The rivalry is real; the competition is close, and we get to enjoy the show.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome