ALDS PREVIEW

Astros vs. A's series breakdown: Attention to detail

Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

PROBABLE STARTERS

Mon, Oct. 5 - HOU: Lance McCullers Jr. vs. OAK: Chris Bassitt

Tue, Oct. 6 - HOU: Framber Valdez vs. OAK: Sean Manaea

Rest of Series TBD

STORYLINES

Ridin' high - The Astros swiftly took care of business against the Minnesota Twins, sweeping the best-of-three series from the Twinkies. Houston will look to ride that momentum into their series against Oakland. Oakland required three games to beat the White Sox at home, and Oakland was on the ropes in game three before coming back to win it. One of these teams clearly played better baseball in the wild card round.

Win the Details - Houston won their series because of small details. Jorge Polanco's error in game one cost Minnesota. Walks and grinded-out at-bats were the edge in game two. Oakland is a better team than Minnesota, so that attention to detail needs to stick. While the Astros won the details, they weren't perfect, as Kyle Tucker and Josh Reddick both had misplayed balls off the wall in Minnesota.

Neutral sites & warm weather - The weather in Minnesota was the worst the Astros have had to play in all year, as they faced cool temperatures and rainy weather. Combine that with the spacious Target Field, and it quickly became a suppressed offensive environment. Dodger Stadium is equally cavernous, but the warm weather will help the offensive environment. Plus, neither of these teams are at home. The Astros road woes are seemingly behind them.

Fabulous Framber - Framber Valdez has earned the start in game two following his magnificent relief outing in game one. Valdez became the first pitcher since Madison Bumgarner in 2014 to pitch five scoreless relief innings in the postseason. Yes, Bumgarner's team won the World Series that year.

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Houston loses in San Francisco

Astros drop back-and-forth middle game to Giants to even series

Houston's offense couldn't keep up with the Giants on Saturday. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images.

With the impressive win in the opener to start the series, the Astros entered Saturday's middle game against the Giants with an opportunity to not just secure the series but surpass San Francisco for the best record in the league. They'd have to wait to take that crown, as the Giants would out-slug the Astros to even the series.

Final Score: Giants 8, Astros 6

Astros' Record: 64-41, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Jay Jackson (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Blake Taylor (2-3)

Teams trade blows early, Giants chase Greinke out early

The teams traded blows early in this one, with the Giants tagging Zack Greinke with six runs, all on homers. The first was a solo shot in the bottom of the second to start the scoring before hitting one in each inning through the fourth: two-run blasts in the third and fourth, then a go-ahead solo shot in the bottom of the fifth, putting them ahead 6-5 at the time. Greinke would face one more batter, allowing a single to end his lackluster day: 4.0 IP, 8 H, 6 R, 4 ER, 2 BB, 4 K, 4 HR, 93 P.

Houston's offense kept things close to try and keep Greinke in a position to win, going up 3-1 in the third on a two-run Aledmys Diaz homer and another coming in on an error. After San Francisco scored four unanswered to make it 5-3, Diaz homered again in the top of the fifth to cut the deficit to one run before Yuli Gurriel would tie it with an RBI double.

Astros stay in it, but Giants even the series by winning the slug-fest

With Greinke exiting with no outs in the fifth, Houston handed the ball to Phil Maton, acquired in the recent Myles Straw trade, to make his debut for his new team. He worked himself into a jam, allowing a single and hitting a batter to load the bases with one out, but was able to get back-to-back strikeouts to strike out the side and strand all three runners, keeping it a one-run game.

That proved pivotal in the top of the sixth, as with two outs, Martin Maldonado would launch a game-tying solo homer, making it 6-6. Blake Taylor took over out of the bullpen in the bottom of the inning but would face just three batters, getting two outs while leaving one on as Dusty Baker moved on to Cristian Javier. Javier would watch the Giants retake the lead, getting back-to-back singles to bring in a run and make it 7-6.

Javier stayed in the game in the bottom of the seventh, allowing a leadoff single but erasing it by striking out the next three batters. Still a 7-6 game in the bottom of the eighth, Yimi Garcia made his Astros debut but did not keep the score there, allowing a leadoff solo homer to make it a two-run game. The 8-6 score would go final as Houston's offense came up empty again in the top of the ninth, setting up a rubber game in the finale.

Up Next: The series finale will get underway at 3:05 PM Central on Sunday in San Francisco. Luis Garcia (7-5, 3.19 ERA) will take the mound for Houston, going opposite Logan Webb (4-3, 3.36 ERA) for the Giants.

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