SO FAR, SO GOOD

It's still early, but the Astros may have their groove back

George Springer has been red-hot. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

It wasn't just a comeback 10-5 win over the Oakland A's to open the American League Divisional Series – on the heels of sweeping the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card Series …

It was the way the Astros took the A's best shot, dusted themselves off and decimated the A's vaunted relievers with clutch hits, a two-out rally and home run barrage.

How the Astros got their groove back.

You remember visions of 2017 – Jose Altuve rounding third and heading for home, Carlos Correa pounding homers in the post-season, George Springer bashing hit after hit, and the cute, lovable Astros punctuating their first World Series title with Carlos Carrera getting on one knee to propose marriage. Aw, wasn't that the sweetest thing ever?

The Astros may not be so cuddly these days, especially with the A's, and the Yankees and Dodgers in the waiting room, still spittin' fire over the Astros sign-stealing scandal. We may see the Astros playing fair and square these days, Altuve's pretty little daughter running to daddy's arms, Alex Bregman raising money to feed the needy and Michael Brantley speaking so eloquently about social issues. But to the rest of the baseball world, the Astros are still low-down, dirty scoundrels and fans would like nothing more than to watch their team – be it the A's or anyone else – send this group of Astros home humiliated.

Get in line, it may be a long wait, and you probably won't like the ending. The Astros are 3-0 so far in the playoffs, bats blazing and making all the right moves. Sure they limped into the playoffs, two games below .500 during the COVID-shortened season. Well, they ain't below .500 now.

The Astros are a leg up in this best-of-five series against the A's. Since the schedule has them playing five straight days, the A's won't be able to hide starting pitcher Mike Fiers, who'll finally have to confront the Astros face-to-face after turning witness for the prosecution against his old teammates in the sign-stealing scandal.

If fans look at the Astros and see cheaters, like Jerry Seinfeld peered into Newman's eyes and saw pure evil, go ahead, the Astros will embrace their villain role. Carlos Correa isn't backing down: "What are they going to say now?"

That was after the Astros shoo'd away the Twins. What are they going to say now, after Correa blasted two homers, three hits and four RBI against the A's? George Springer blasted four hits, and Altuve, mired in a season-long slump, woke up with two hits and two key RBI? Kyle Tucker had two hits. The only thing missing from Bregman's homer was him staring into the dugout camera like the brash, in-your-face wise ass we love. You don't like it? Do something about it.

Yeah, yeah, the A's came into this series with a heralded bullpen, the best in the league. Except for now. The Astros relievers, Brian Taylor, Enoli Paredes, Cristian Javier and Ryan Pressly drilled holes in the A's bats, with no hits over five lockdown innings. Meanwhile the Astros battered seven A's relievers for seven runs. For sure, what are they going to say now?

It was only one game, but it was a statement win by the Astros.

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Houston dropped two of three

Astros drop series finale to Oakland, A's win series

Jose Urquidy couldn't hold Oakland back on Saturday. Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

With Oakland finally ending their drought against the Astros on Friday night to split the first two games of the series, and with the Angels staying in step with them as both teams started the day 6-2, the Astros needed a win to keep momentum in their favor on Saturday.

Instead, Oakland would outslug Houston once again to take the series finale and take the series win. The loss moves Houston to 6-3 and down to second place, at least for now, until the 6-2 Angels complete their game on Saturday evening.

Final Score: A's 7, Astros 3

Astros' Record: 6-3, second in AL West

Winning Pitcher: Frankie Montas (1-1)

Losing Pitcher: Jose Urquidy (0-1)

Urquidy gives up four over six

Much like the night before, Oakland was able to bring in runs against Houston's starter, this time Jose Urquidy, Saturday afternoon in their second time through the order. Their first time through, Urquidy was cruising, allowing just one baserunner in the first three innings on a single in the top of the third.

Things shifted in the top of the fourth, with the A's getting back-to-back singles to set the stage for a two-run frame with dual RBI-singles to take a 2-0 lead. Oakland doubled that in the fifth, getting a two-out single to set up a two-run homer by Ramon Laureano to make it 4-0. Urquidy would go on to finish six innings, but with no run support to that point, would leave in line for the loss. His final line: 6.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 0 BB, 7 K, 93 P.

A's pad their lead before Houston gets on the board

Meanwhile, although getting five hits, the Astros could not get anything on the board against Frankie Montas through six innings. Brandon Bielak took over out of the bullpen for Urquidy in the top of the seventh, but after loading the bases, he would allow a dagger two-RBI single to make it a 6-0 deficit for Houston.

With Montas starting the seventh looking to face a batter or two before Oakland moved to their bullpen, Kyle Tucker would finally get Houston on the board with a leadoff solo home run, cutting the lead to 6-1 and ending Montas' day. Houston would get a two-out rally going, with an RBI-double by Jose Altuve followed by an RBI-triple by Michael Brantley to make it a three-run game at 6-3.

Oakland takes the series win

Ryne Stanek tried to keep it a three-run game and give the Astros a chance to stay in it in the top of the eighth but instead would give up a two-out solo home run to push Oakland's lead back to four. That 7-3 score would go final as Houston would go scoreless in the eighth and ninth.

Up Next: Houston will have a day off on Sunday before continuing this homestand Monday night by welcoming in Detroit and former manager A.J. Hinch for three games. In the series opener, the Tigers will send young star Casey Mize (0-0, 2.25 ERA) to the mound, while the Astros will get another start by Zack Greinke (1-0, 1.38 ERA).

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