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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.

The Nationals have inquired about Kris Bryant

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The Washington Nationals, fresh off signing Stephen Strasburg to a $245 million deal, are now turning their attention to their third base hole. Jon Morosi of MLB.com reports that they have made inquiries to the Chicago Cubs about trading for Kris Bryant.

Emphasis on the word “inquiry” because it’d be premature for the Cubs to trade Bryant at the moment, even if they are reported to be considering the possibility.

Bryant and the Cubs are awaiting word from an arbitrator about Bryant’s years-old service time grievance. If Bryant wins, he becomes a free agent after the 2020 season. If the Cubs win they control him for two more years. The team may or may not choose to trade him in either case as they are reportedly trying to cut payroll, but the price for him will vary pretty significantly depending on whether or not the acquiring club will receive one or two years of control over the former MVP.

For Washington, this would be a means of replacing free agent third baseman Anthony Rendon. Or, perhaps, the inquiries are a means of creating a tad more leverage for the Nats as they talk to Rendon’s agent about re-signing him.

Which, in the past, the Nats said they could not do if they also re-signed Strasburg, though I suspect that’s just posturing too. They may not want to spend big money to keep their World Series core together, but they can afford it. They’re going to see, I suspect, an eight-figure uptick in revenue by virtue of being the defending World Series champs. They are poised to receive a significant payout as a result of recent rulings in their own multi-year dispute with the Orioles and the MASN network. They are, of course, owned by billionaire real estate moguls. All of that taken together means that, if they choose to, they can bring back Rendon. Assuming he chooses to come back too.

But, if that doesn’t happen, they appear to be giving themselves options at the hot corner.