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Astros knock four homers to take a 1-0 lead over Cleveland in the ALDS

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It began as a classic pitchers duel but, as so often happens in Minute Maid Park, especially in the postseason, the longball ended up being the story of the game. The Astros rode four dingers — from Alex Bregman, George Springer, Jose Altuve and Martin Maldonado — to beat Cleveland 7-2 and take a 1-0 lead in the ALDS.

Justin Verlander and Corey Kluber started off as expected, holding opposing batters hitless through three, with Verlander continuing to no-hit Cleveland into the fourth. In the bottom of the fourth Alex Bregman broke up the no-no with a solo homer on a 2-1 sinker to make it 1-0 Houston. Later in that inning Josh Reddick singled in Yuli Gurriel to make it 2-0.

Houston added two more in the fifth via a George Springer leadoff homer which made it 3-0. Two pitches later Jose Altuve jacked a sinker to the same part of the ballpark to make it 4-0.

The Indians clawed back in the top of the sixth. Yan Gomes led things off with a single — the first Indians hit of the game — and then, after a Jason Kipnis strikeout, Francisco Lindor singled him to second. A Michael Brantley walk loaded the bases and that was all A.J. Hinch needed to see from Justin Verlander, who was lifted for Ryan Pressly.  Pressly’s first pitch to Jose Ramirez was a curve in the dirt which allowed Gomes to score from third and the other runners to move up 90 feet. Despite first base now being open, Terry Francona allowed Pressly to pitch to Ramirez. He grounded out to first and Lindor scored to make it 4-2. That’s all they’d get in the inning.

Houston would go down in order in their half of the sixth and Cleveland would follow suit in the seventh. Martin Maldonado led off the bottom half of the seventh saw a fastball up in his eyes and sent it out to left field to make it 5-2 Champs. They weren’t done, though, as George Springer reached and then, after Francona brought Trevor Bauer into the game, Springer reached second on a groundout and then came around to score on an Alex Bregman single to left center. It looked as though there may have been a play at the plate on Springer at home, but Bauer cut it off and the run scored. 6-2 Houston.

Cleveland once again went quietly in the eighth while Houston added even more insurance via a Tyler White double. He was lifted for pinch runner Myles Straw, who was promptly singled in by Josh Reddick to make it 7-2. Cleveland failed to score in the ninth and that was the ballgame.

When last we saw the Astros in the postseason they were riding longballs which leapt out of Minute Maid Park. They have begun this postseason in much the same way.

Video: Starling Marte refuses to take first base after being hit by pitch

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Pirates outfielder Starling Marte was hit on the hand by a Jack Flaherty pitch in the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Cardinals. Rather than take first base, Marte — who came to the plate with a runner on first base — insisted to home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman that the ball hit the knob of the bat, not his hand. Marte was allowed to continue his at-bat, though manager Clint Hurdle came out to discuss the ruling with Dreckman. Marte eventually grounded into a fielder’s choice. He then got caught attempting to steal second base and the Pirates scored zero runs in the inning.

According to Baseball Prospectus, a team that has runners on first and second with no outs is expected to score 1.55 runs. Having a runner on first base with one out yields 0.56 expected runs. Marte essentially cost his team a run by rejecting first base. Oops.