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 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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