Houston gets back in the win column

Altuve's slam helps push Astros out of losing skid in win over Indians

Jose Altuve came through with a grand slam Thursday to push Astros over Indians. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images

After a disappointing fourth loss in a row on Wednesday at home to finish the sweep by the very beatable Orioles, the Astros picked up a four-game series and road trip in Cleveland on Thursday in need of a win to keep pace and maintain a now thin division lead. Thanks to a great start by Framber Valdez and a timely grand slam by Jose Altuve, they would get the victory.

Final Score: Astros 7, Indians 2

Astros' Record: 49-33, first in the AL West

Winning Pitcher: Framber Valdez (5-1)

Losing Pitcher: J.C. Mejia (1-3)

Cleveland strikes first, but Valdez battles through seven

After a quick bottom of the first for Framber Valdez, it looked like his night might unravel in the second. He faced seven batters that frame, with a run scoring on a wild pitch after a leadoff walk and single put runners on the corners. Cleveland went on to load the bases with one out, but Valdez escaped to limit the damage to one run.

The Indians doubled their new lead in the next inning, getting back-to-back one-out doubles to make it 2-0. After that, he would cruise the rest of the way, erasing a couple of walks and a hit over the next four frames to leave with a quality start and ultimately a win. His final line: 7.0 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 5 BB, 6 K, 107 P.

Altuve's slam turns the tide

Houston began battling back from the 2-0 hole in the top of the fourth, getting a solo blast from Yordan Alvarez to cut it in half. They loaded the bases on three straight batters to start the top of the fifth, bringing Jose Altuve to the plate, who came through with a grand slam to give the Astros their first lead of the night, 5-2.

They extended it to a four-run advantage later in the inning, getting a sac fly by Yuli Gurriel. After Cleveland went to their bullpen, Michael Brantley would give his former teammates a taste of what they've been missing, hitting a solo home run to make it a 7-2 game in the top of the seventh.

Houston ends losing skid to take the opener

After Valdez, Houston brought in Peter Solomon for the bottom of the eighth to hold on to the five-run lead, and he would do so by getting out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam to strand all three runners and send the game to the ninth. Having not worked in the last few days, Ryan Pressly came on in the bottom of the ninth to close things out, putting the Astros back in the win column to end their losing streak.

Up Next: Game two of this four-game set will be another 6:10 PM Central start on Friday. Lance McCullers Jr. (5-1, 2.94 ERA) will be on the mound to try and help Houston get back-to-back wins, while Cleveland will send out Sam Hentges (1-2, 7.32 ERA).

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The Astros play Game 1 of the ALDS Tuesday. Composite image by Brandon Strange.

With a nod to Charles Dickens, October is the best of times (Astros) and the worst of times (Texans and Rockets) for Houston sports fans. At least this October.

October is the one month when all three of Houston’s major sports teams are guaranteed to be in full swing at the same time. It’s possible, if the Astros make the World Series that November will have all three teams in action, too. But let’s not jinx things.

The Astros start their playoff run Tuesday on TBS. Since the Yankees also play that day, also on TBS, we can assume the Astros will get the daytime slot, the Yankees in prime time. Now before Astros fans start screaming east coast bias, it really only applies to TV. Fun fact: no New York Met has ever won an MVP Award, and only one Yankee has won it in the past 37 years – Alex Rodriguez in 2005 and 2007. How’d that work out for him? Most important, a New York team has won the World Series only once in the past two decades – the Yankees in 2009.

The Astros could play as many as 15 more games in October, five in the Division Series, seven in the League Championship Series and three in the World Series before the calendar flips to November.

Meanwhile, the Texans plod on with three more games in October, and the Rockets have 11.

The winless Texans are at home against the Titans at NRG Stadium, on the road against the Jaguars and Raiders.

The Rockets, coming off the worst record in the NBA last season, have three games at home at Toyota Center and eight on the road.

This presents a problem of abundance, an embarrassment of riches, for Houston sports junkies. Who are you going to watch on TV? Which team will you pay to watch in person? Who are you rooting for the most? Whose jersey will you buy?

David Puddy is right, you “gotta support the team,” but who will own Houston this month?

What to do? If it’s true that nothing succeeds like success, and everybody loves a winner – it’s an obvious choice.

The Astros.

The Astros just completed their regular season with 106 wins, second most in franchise history, another American League West title, the best record in the American League and will have home field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. Even though fans had high hopes for the Astros entering 2022, the team smashed everybody’s expectations. Vegas put the Astros over/under wins at 92 games. The Astros seemingly flew by that number during spring training.

They are the first team in American League history to win 100 games in four of their last five full seasons. Not even Babe Ruth’s Yankees of the 1920s and 1930s did that. This core of Astros has won five of the last six American League West titles. They’ve played in three of the last five World Series. This is a dynasty right before our eyes. We’re witness to greatness. How ‘bout them Astros?

What a season it was. Who could have figured that 39-year-old Justin Verlander, out of action for two seasons after Tommy John surgery, would have a career year, a ridiculously skinny earned run average and the overwhelming pick for the Cy Young Award? Jose Altuve would return to a .300 batting average, Cristian Javier would lead the team in strikeouts, Yordan Alvarez would finish No. 2 between Aaron Judge and Mike Trout in OPS, and rookie Jeremy Pena would slug 22 home runs, the same number as Carlos Correa? Remember last offseason and cries of “pay the man!” Some of a team’s best deals are the ones they don’t make.

Strap yourself in for an October to remember. The storylines are endless. There’s bad blood between the Astros and the Yankees, between the Astros and Dodgers, between the Astros and boo birds in every stadium not named Minute Maid Park.

It’s going to be fun.

As for the Texans, Deshaun Watson returns to action Nov. 4 against the Texans here at NRG Stadium. And we’ll catch up with the Rockets when the NBA season starts for real on Christmas Day. But until then … play ball!

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