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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.

And That Happened: Thursday’s Scores and Highlights

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Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Diamondbacks 4, Braves 1: 🎶Stop me, oh-oh-oh, stop me . . .stop me if you think that you’ve heard this one before . . .🎶

Sorry. Just waylaid by this Braves bullpen. Nothing’s changed. It’s enough to make a shy, bald, Buddhist reflect and plan a mass murder. Me watching the game: 🎶 I drank one. It became four. And when I fell on the floor I drank more.🎶

Christian Walker hit a two-run homer in the seventh off of Chad Sobotka, who, didn’t get an out and who has given up five runs in his last two outings. The Diamondbacks have won four straight.

Nationals 4, Giants 2: Patrick Corbin took a one-hitter into the eighth inning and ended having allowed only one run on two hits while punching out nine. Not literally, though. If he punched out nine guys he’d probably be arrested.

Tigers 9, White Sox 7: Detroit ends a five-game skid. Nicholas Castellanos and Miguel Cabrera led the way, with the former going 3-for-4, the latter 2-for-4 and both driving in two runs. Dustin Peterson and Grayson Greiner also each drove in two, but they don’t get to be characterized as “leading the way” because baseball has a pretty strict seniority system and if you get too loosey-goosey with it you got a big hassle with the union and I’ve already had too many fires to put out this week, OK?

Blue Jays 7, Twins 4: Randal Grichuk, who got all “play the game the right way” on Tim Anderson on Wednesday, hit a homer. After which he gently laid his bat down parallel to the base line, assumed an expression which suggested mild pleasure but copious humility and then stoically ran the bases at a speed which reflected his obvious reverence for players past, present and future. I’m assuming at least.

Here’s what he actually said:

“I’ve never been one to flip a bat or do anything like that. I run out of the box always. I’ve hit some pretty far homers and I’ve sprinted out of the box like it was a wall-scraper. It’s just who I am. (Other) guys are different.”

Someone give that guy the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Justin Smoak and Teoscar Hernández hit home runs too. No word on whether Grichuk silently judged them afterwards. The Jays took three of four from the Twinkies.

Royals 6, Yankees 1: Homer Bailey — Homer Bailey? — yes, Homer Bailey held the Bombers to one run over six. Jorge Soler and Ryan O'Hearn hit dingers. New York got four singles in the game. That’s it. I guess with the Red Sox and Cubs being off someone had to step up and satisfy the “big money teams stinkin’ up the joint” quota for the evening.

Dodgers 3, Brewers 1: Before the game Dave Roberts announced that Julio Urías would head to the bullpen after this start since the Dodgers will soon be getting a couple of veteran pitchers back. Then Urías goes out and tosses six one-hit shutout innings while striking out nine. There are teams that would kill to have the sort of depth that would allow this kid to be shuffled off to long relief after a start like this. Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy homered in a winning cause. Christian Yelich homered in a losing cause.

Orioles 6, Rays 5: Joey Rickard drove in the winning run in the 11th inning with an RBI double. To even get him up to bat required Chris Davis to hit a two-out RBI single, and I wonder what the odds of that happening were. RIckard himself was no sure bet to play the hero here after coming into the game on an 0-for-15 skid, but he reached base five times and drove in two on the night. Dude used to be a Ray, too. Or at least in their system. Baltimore swiped him from Tampa Bay in the 2015 Rule 5 Draft. Here’s another killer for the Rays: Tommy Pham, who was 4-for-5 with two driven in, was on second base with one out in the bottom of the ninth and the score tied but . . . got picked off while trying to steal third base. Ouch.

Rockies 6, Phillies 2: Ryan McMahon homered twice and had five RBI. Kyle Freeland pitched six scoreless innings but had to leave with a blister, so that’s worth watching. Colorado was won four in a row.

Mariners 11, Angels 10: The M’s had a 10-2 lead heading into the seventh and totally blew it when the Angels scored seven runs on seven hits in the seventh and got a David Fletcher homer in the eighth to tie things up. Seattle rallied in the ninth, though, with pinch hitter Jay Bruce singing in Mitch Haniger for the winning margin. Before all of that messiness the M’s bottom of the order, in the form of Omar Narváez and Ryon Healy, combined to drive in nine. Healy homered twice. Narváez hit a three-run shot. Speaking of shot, all the pitchers in this one probably should’ve been.

Reds 4, Padres 1: Joey Votto led off in this came, which was odd, and he hit a homer to start the game. Padres starter Chris Paddack said after the game that he “thought I could blow a heater by him.” Bless his heart. Fernando Tatís Jr. led off too, which is also new, and went 2-for-4. Tucker Barnhart and Jesse Winker also homered, helping Cincy snap a four-game losing skid.