Houston loses in Oakland

Astros drop opener to A's after late barrage against their bullpen

The Astros suffered a lopsided loss to the A's on Friday after a late barrage against their bullpen. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After taking three of four against the Angels in Anaheim and getting a little help from Seattle, who swept Oakland in their four-game set, the Astros entered Friday's series opener with a magic number of 3. It would not move from there in this one, as the A's would destroy Houston's bullpen late in the game to hand them a lopsided loss.

Final Score: A's 14, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 91-63, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (13-9)

Losing Pitcher: Brandon Bielak (3-4)

Houston strikes first, but Oakland gets a big third off Bielak

Houston benefited from an error to start this series, with Jose Altuve reaching base and getting to third base. Yuli Gurriel would bring him home, getting a sac fly to put the Astros in front 1-0. Altuve scored against in the top of the third, this time doing it himself with a leadoff solo homer to start the frame and double the lead to 2-0.

To that point, Brandon Bielak, who made the emergency start for Zack Greinke, who was a late scratch, had been able to keep Oakland at bay, erasing two singles in the first then tossing a 1-2-3 second. They got to him in the third, though, as back-to-back one-out walks proved costly as the A's would rip off two RBI singles and a sac fly to go in front 3-2 against him. He would finish that inning, but that would be it for him, with Houston moving on to the bullpen.

Astros drop the opener as Oakland breaks it open late

Peter Solomon, who was activated with Greinke landing on the IL, was the reliever who took over for Bielak starting in the bottom of the fourth. He was impressive, erasing singles in the fourth and sixth for three scoreless innings. Meanwhile, other than the homer by Altuve off of him, the Astros weren't able to get anything significant going against Frankie Montas, who made it through the seventh while maintaining the 3-2 advantage for Oakland, despite Houston getting the tying run on third with one out in the seventh.

Yimi Garcia was Houston's next reliever in the bottom of the seventh, but it was a rough inning for him, as he would give up two singles and a walk while getting one out before giving up a two-RBI double, giving Oakland insurance runs. Things spiraled incredibly out of control from there for Houston's bullpen, as Brooks Raley would come in to try and end the inning but instead allowed a grand slam to make it a 9-2 game.

It didn't get better for Seth Martinez in the bottom of the eighth, as he would also struggle as Oakland's offense continued to mash, giving up a bases-loaded walk, an RBI single, and a bases-clearing double to extend the A's lead to 14-2, putting things well out of reach. Despite loading the bases in the top of the ninth, the Astros would not get any closer, losing by twelve runs as their magic number stays stuck at 3.

Up Next: The middle game of this series will get underway at 3:07 PM Central on Saturday, and the expected pitching matchup is Sean Manaea (10-10, 4.05 ERA) for the A's and Framber Valdez (11-5, 3.07 ERA) for the Astros.

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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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