Houston comes up short of the sweep

Astros drop finale to Angels as magic number stays put

Lance McCullers Jr. allowed some costly walks to the Angels on Thursday. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After blowing past the Angels in extra innings on Wednesday, the Astros tried to wrap up a series sweep with a win in the finale in Anaheim on Thursday. A much quieter night at the plate by their bats prevented that, though, as Los Angeles would salvage a game to send Houston out of town wearing a loss.

Final Score: Angels 3, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 91-62, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Austin Warren (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Lance McCullers Jr. (12-5)

Angels take advantage of walks by McCullers Jr.

Both starting pitchers had dominant starts to their nights, with both lineups getting retired in order as no one would reach base in the first three innings of the finale. Houston got the first hit and runner in the top of the fourth and even loaded the bases but came away empty-handed as the game remained scoreless. Los Angeles also got in the hit column in the bottom of the inning against Lance McCullers Jr., getting a leadoff single that would come around to score later on a sac fly to make it a 1-0 Angels lead.

McCullers Jr. rebounded by erasing a leadoff walk in the fifth, and in the top of the sixth, his offense tied things up with an RBI single by Carlos Correa. Houston's starter put himself back on the hook in the bottom of the inning, though, as two walks would set up a two-RBI double by former Astro Jack Mayfield, putting LA back in front 3-1. McCullers Jr. would finish the inning, but that would be it for him: 6.0 IP, 2 H, 3 ER, 4 BB, 5 K, 101 P.

Astros drop the finale

Fresh off the paternity list, Ryne Stanek took over out of Houston's bullpen in the bottom of the seventh. He faced four batters, getting two outs while putting two on via a walk and a single, prompting a change to Blake Taylor, who would finish the inning to keep it a two-run game. Houston worked a walk in the top of the eighth but would strand it as they remained behind 3-1.

Seth Martinez was the next reliever for the Astros, coming in to try and keep the score put in the bottom of the eighth, and he did so by erasing a one-out double. Houston would get within a run in the top of the ninth, courtesy of a pinch-hit solo homer by Jason Castro with two outs, but would get stopped there as the Angels would take the finale. The loss keeps Houston's magic number stuck in place as they turn the page to the next leg of their trip.

Up Next: The Astros will continue this road trip on Friday, picking up in Oakland with the opener of a pivotal three-game series at 8:40 PM Central. The pitching matchup in the first game will be Frankie Montas (12-9, 3.57 ERA) for the A's going opposite of Zack Greinke (11-6, 4.11 ERA) for Houston.

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Houston goes up 1-0 in the series

Altuve, Correa help lift Astros to ALCS Game 1 win over Red Sox

Carlos Correa's go-ahead homer in the seventh inning of ALCS Game 1 helped lift the Astros to a 1-0 series lead. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images

Despite one rough loss to the White Sox in the ALDS, the Astros looked like the dominant team they are capable of being, taking that series 3-1 to advance and taking ownership of home-field advantage in the ALCS against the Red Sox, who upset the Rays. In Game 1, despite trailing for the middle portions of the game, Houston would get more highlight moments from the faces of the franchise to start the series with a win.

Final Score: Astros 5, Red Sox 4

ALCS Series (Best of Seven): Houston leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: Ryne Stanek

Losing Pitcher: Hansel Robles

Houston strikes first, but Boston sends Valdez to an early exit

Both starting pitchers worked in and out of trouble in the early goings of ALCS Game 1, starting with Framber Valdez in the top of the first. After erasing a leadoff single by inducing a double play, he went on to load the bases on a single and two walks but would strand all three runners to keep Boston off the board. The Astros jumped in front in the bottom half, with Jose Altuve working a leadoff walk, moving to second on a one-out single by Alex Bregman, advancing to third on a wild pitch, then ultimately scoring on a sac fly by Yordan Alvarez to put Houston ahead 1-0 after one frame.

They had a chance to extend their lead in the bottom of the second, taking advantage of a shaky inning by Chris Sale, who loaded the bases with one out as Houston would get two singles and a hit-by-pitch. That flipped the order over to the top, but a great diving catch by former Astro Kiké Hernández would end the inning. Hernández led off the top of the third against Valdez, and he would tie things up with a solo homer.

Things went downhill from there for Valdez and the Astros, as a one-out walk followed by a single gave the Red Sox the go-ahead run in scoring position. On a groundball that likely should have been a double play to end the inning, it would get through Altuve's legs, scoring a run and keeping the inning alive for Boston. They took advantage, getting an RBI double to extend their new lead to 3-1. Valdez would get one more out before Dusty Baker would give him the early hook, bringing in Yimi Garcia, who finished the frame.

A battle of the bullpens, Altuve ties it up

Like Valdez, Sale would also not make it through three innings, getting two outs while putting two on base before Boston would start their bullpen's night as well. Both sets of relievers settled the game down, with the Red Sox stranding two of Houston's runners in the third as well as the fifth, maintaining their two-run lead. After Garcia finished the third, Cristian Javier entered to eat up a couple of innings, and he would do just that by getting through two frames with just one hit, four strikeouts, and no runs.

Next, Phil Maton took over in the top of the sixth and erased a leadoff walk to keep things in striking distance for the home team. In the bottom of the sixth, Houston put another runner on base, getting a one-out single by Chas McCormick. Two batters later, with two outs, Jose Altuve provided yet another career postseason highlight, tying the game 3-3 with a two-run home to re-energize the Minute Maid Park crowd.

Astros take ALCS Game 1

Now a brand new ballgame in the top of the seventh, Brooks Raley came in to face three batters, getting two strikeouts while allowing a single before Dusty Baker would move on to Ryne Stanek, who would get the third out. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Correa continued his march to a monster off-season contract, putting Houston back on top with a solo homer, making it 4-3.

Houston kept the script after Stanek with the new lead in hand, going to Kendall Graveman as the setup man in the top of the eighth. Despite a two-out single, he would get out of the inning with the lead intact, putting Houston three outs away from the victory. After a walk, single, and hit by pitch to start the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded, Altuve would drive in his third run of the game, getting a sac fly to extend the lead to two runs at 5-3.

That insurance run proved pivotal, as closer Ryan Pressly was met with a leadoff solo home run by Hernandez, his second of the night for Boston, to make it 5-4. Pressly refocused and was able to get the next three batters in order, though, wrapping up the win to start Houston off with a 1-0 series lead and putting them three wins away from advancing to the World Series.

Up Next: The two teams will have a moderately quick turnaround, with ALCS Game 2 scheduled to start at 3:20 PM Central on Saturday ahead of NLCS Game 1 between the Dodgers and Braves getting the night slot. The pitching matchup is expected to be Nathan Eovaldi for Boston, who is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA in his two starts this postseason, going opposite Luis Garcia, who had a rough outing in the ALDS for Houston, giving up five runs without completing three innings in Chicago.

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