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Jose Altuve hits three home runs, powers Astros past Red Sox 8-2 in ALDS Game 1

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The Astros got to Red Sox starter Chris Sale early and never let up, slugging their way to a 8-2 victory in Game 1 of the ALDS at Minute Maid Park on Thursday.

Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve hit back-to-back solo home runs off of Sale in the bottom of the first inning to stake starter Justin Verlander to an early 2-0 lead. The Red Sox chipped away at the deficit in the top of the second, scoring a run on what would have otherwise been a base running blunder by Dustin Pedroia. Mitch Moreland and Pedroia both drew walks with one out. After Rafael Devers struck out, Sandy Leon singled to right field. Moreland was thought to have scored easily, but Reddick fired a strike to third base to get Pedroia, who appeared to be tagged just before Moreland touched home plate, which was the ruling on the field. The ruling, however, was overturned upon replay review and the Red Sox got the run. The Red Sox scored again in the fourth thanks to a Devers sacrifice fly, knotting the game up at two apiece.

Sale faltered again in the bottom of the fourth. Evan Gattis doubled down the left field line and Reddick singled on a ball Jackie Bradley, Jr. appeared to catch on a dive in shallow left-center field. Replay review overturned the ruling on the field, giving Reddick his single. With two outs, Marwin Gonzalez ripped a double to right-center, plating both Gattis and Reddick to put the Astros up 4-2. In the fifth, Altuve hit another solo home run almost exactly to the same spot as his blast in the first inning. That moved the lead to 5-2.

The wheels further spun for Sale in the sixth. Gattis led off with another double down the left field line. Reddick drew a walk, which ended Sale’s night. Unfortunately for Sale, reliever Joe Kelly couldn’t strand either of his inherited runners. Yuli Gurriel singled to load the bases, then Brian McCann brought home two more runs with a single to shallow right field.

Verlander exited after six innings, giving up the two runs on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts. He was solid if unspectacular, but given the way other starters have fared so far this postseason, he looked like Cy Young.

In the seventh inning, Altuve blasted his third solo home run of the game, this time off of Austin Maddox, to make it an 8-2 game. It’s the 10th time since 1903 a player has homered three times in a playoff game. The last to do it was the Giants’ Pablo Sandoval in Game 1 of the World Series against the Tigers in 2012. The last second baseman to do it was the Angels’ Adam Kennedy in Game 5 of the ALCS against the Twins in 2002. It’s only been done five times in total this millennium (Albert Pujols and Adrian Beltre are the others).

Chris Devenski worked a scoreless seventh for the Astros, sandwiching a Sandy Leon pop-up with strikeouts of Devers and Bradley. Will Harris and Francisco Liriano combined to pitch a scoreless eighth. Joe Musgrove came on in the ninth, setting down Pedroia, Devers, and Sandy Leon in order, finalizing the 8-2 victory.

The series will continue on Friday as the Red Sox and Astros do battle at Minute Maid Park at 2 PM ET on Friday. Drew Pomeranz will start for the Red Sox opposite the Astros’ Dallas Keuchel.

Astros push ALCS to Game 7 with 7-1 stunner against Yankees

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There’s just something about playing in your home ballpark. The Astros decimated the Yankees at Minute Maid Park on Friday, riding seven scoreless innings from Justin Verlander and a pair of big runs from Jose Altuve to win 7-1 and force a Game 7 in the American League Championship Series.

Through the first four innings, however, the teams looked equally matched. Luis Severino no-hit the Astros through 3 2/3 innings, losing his bid on Carlos Correa‘s line drive single in the fourth. The Astros returned in the fifth to do some real damage, drawing two walks and plating the first run of the night with Brian McCann‘s ground-rule double off of the right field wall. Things didn’t get any easier for Severino. Jose Altuve lined a two-RBI base hit into left field, upping Houston’s advantage to three runs.

Verlander, meanwhile, muted the Yankees’ offense with seven innings of five-hit, eight-strikeout ball. While he didn’t come close to matching his complete game effort in Game 2, he was still plenty dominant against a struggling New York lineup. No player reached past first base until the sixth inning, when a pair of base hits from Chase Headley and Didi Gregorius gave the Yankees their first runner in scoring position. That didn’t last long, though, as Gary Sanchez grounded out on a 3-0 slider to end the inning.

In the seventh, Houston’s ace got into another spot of trouble. He walked Greg Bird on six pitches to start the inning, then plunked Starlin Castro on the wrist. Aaron Hicks struck out, in part thanks to a questionable call by home plate umpire Jim Reynolds, but it was Todd Frazier who presented the biggest threat after returning an 0-1 fastball for a 403-foot fly out to left field. Luckily for Verlander, George Springer was there to bail him out with a leaping catch at the wall.

The Yankees kept things exciting in the eighth, too. Aaron Judge ripped his third postseason home run off of Brad Peacock, taking a 425-footer out to the train in left field to spoil the Astros’ shutout. That was the only real break the Yankees got, however, as Altuve, Alex Bregman and Evan Gattis returned in the bottom of the inning to tack on another four runs, including Altuve’s solo shot off of David Robertson:

Ken Giles handled the ninth, expending 23 pitches and giving up a base hit and a walk before retiring Frazier and Headley to end the game. Thanks to Houston’s winning efforts, the two teams will compete in their first seven-game Championship Series since 2004 — and this time, at least one of them is guaranteed to come away with a win.

Game 7 of the ALCS is set for Saturday at 8:00 PM ET. Houston right-hander Charlie Morton (14-7, 3.62 ERA) is scheduled to face southpaw CC Sabathia (14-5, 3.69 ERA).