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 first game to Oakland

A's end losing streak against Astros with late homers

Lance McCullers Jr. went five innings of one-run ball Friday night. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

After maintaining their stronghold against the A's in Thursday's home opener, the Astros had the chance to lock up the three-game series victory against Oakland with a win on Friday night. On the mound, Lance McCullers Jr. hoped to improve upon his first start against this same team, a five-inning one-run outing.

Instead, he would have the same outcome, once again lasting five innings while allowing one run, before a big tie-breaking home run late in the game would push Oakland out of their losing skid against the Astros.

Final Score: A's 6, Astros 2

Astros' Record: 6-2, tied for first in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Yusmeiro Petit (2-0)

Losing Pitcher: Bryan Abreu (1-1)

McCullers Jr. makes it through five

McCullers Jr. looked sharp through the first three innings, allowing just two baserunners, one on a second-inning single, then a walk in the third. Oakland did better against him the second time through their order in the fourth, with Jed Lowrie leading the inning off with a solo home run to put Oakland in front 1-0.

They went on to load the bases with one out on an error and two walks, but McCullers would strand them all. He returned for the fifth, a much cleaner inning where a caught stealing by Martin Maldonado would help him face just three batters. His final line: 5.0 IP, 2 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K, 88 P.

Oakland gets homer-happy to even the series

McCullers Jr. would leave the game without being eligible for the winning or losing decision, as an RBI-groundout by Kyle Tucker in the fourth would have it tied 1-1. Bryan Abreu was the first out of Houston's bullpen, and he would attempt to eat up multiple innings. He had perfect innings in the sixth and seventh, retiring six A's in order to maintain the stalemate.

Abreu remained in the game in the top of the eighth, allowing a single before getting a strikeout, ending his run as Dusty Baker would bring in left-handed Blake Taylor. Taylor would give up a single against his first batter, then a loud go-ahead three-run home run to Matt Olson to push the A's back in front 4-1. They'd add two more insurance runs off of Joe Smith in the top of the ninth, getting a two-run home run by Mark Canha to extend the lead to 6-1.

Oakland's bullpen would hold on to the newly created lead, allowing just one run on a sac fly by Jose Altuve in the bottom of the ninth, finally ending their losing streak against Houston and setting up the rubber game on Saturday to be for the series victory.

Up Next: This series's finale will be a Saturday afternoon start, with first pitch scheduled for 3:05 PM. For the Astros, Jose Urquidy (0-0, 4.15 ERA) will look to get a win on the board, while Oakland will hand the ball to Frankie Montas (0-1, 23.63 ERA).

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