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Astros thump Rays in Game 1 of the ALDS

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Well, that could’ve gone better for the Tampa Bay Rays.

Justin Verlander was, well, Justin Verlander. The Astros ace — one of ’em anyway — tossed seven shutout innings, allowing only one hit and striking out eight. The Rays drew three walks but never really threatened while he was in the game. The Astros won 6-2.

Verlander’s counterpart Tyler Glasnow got into a jam in the third but was otherwise pretty good for four innings, throwing near-100 m.p.h. heat and not allowing a run. That fifth inning, though, was a lulu.

After giving up a leadoff walk to ninth place hitter Josh Reddick, Glasnow struck out George Springer. With José Altuve at the plate he delivered his 76th and final pitch of the game: a 97.5 m.p.h. fastball up high. Velocity is great, but big league batters can adjust to it eventually. Atuve, one of the best big league hitters there is, was not fazed. He put lumber on it and sent it into the Crawford Boxes to give the Astros a 2-0 lead:

With Glasnow gone reliever Brendan McKay put two more runners on and the Rays gave up two more due to bad defense, with both runners scoring on a fly ball that fell in between the second baseman and right fielder. The second baseman was charged with an error:

The sides traded zeros in the sixth but then the Astros plated two more in the bottom of the seventh via RBI doubles from Yordan Álvarez and Yuli Gurriel, both off of Oliver Drake. It was 6-0 at that point and A.J. Hinch lifted Verlander to start the eighth.

That agreed with the Rays, who managed to rally for two runs on four hits off of Ryan Pressly, with Eric Sogard singling in a run and Austin Meadows doubling one in. Hinch lifted him with two outs and runners on the corner. Will Harris came in and got Ji-Man Choi to end the would-be comeback before it really came all that far back. Roberto Osuna came on in the ninth and set the Rays down in order to end it.

Welp, at least Verlander is out of the way. Now all the Rays have to do is beat Gerrit Cole and Zack Greinke.

Good luck, guys!

Astros claim AL pennant with walk-off win against the Yankees

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Following a rollercoaster performance on Saturday, the Astros clinched the American League Championship Series with a decisive 6-4 walk-off win against the Yankees, claiming their second AL pennant and earning a well-deserved entrance to the World Series.

Both clubs decided to preserve possible Game 7 starters Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole, electing to have a “bullpen day” for a pivotal Game 6. Chad Green took the mound for the Yankees, tossing one inning before handing the ball off to a long line of relievers, while Brad Peacock‘s rare playoff start was capped at 1 2/3 innings. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that made it the first postseason game since 1999 in which neither starting pitcher lasted two innings or longer.

All told, the two clubs utilized a total of 13 pitchers to make it through nine innings. The Astros lost Ryan Pressly to a worrisome knee injury in the third, but were able to lean on José Urquidy for 2 2/3 innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball. Although Yankees’ bullpen fought back in every inning, they had considerable difficulty recovering from Yuli Gurriel‘s three-run homer off of Green in the bottom of the first:

Still, New York managed to get in a couple of knocks as well: first, with Gary Sanchez‘s RBI single in the second inning, then with Gio Urshela‘s 395-foot blast in the fourth inning — the second of his postseason career to date. That wasn’t enough to close the gap, however, and Alex Bregman‘s productive groundout in the sixth helped cushion the Astros’ lead as they headed toward the final few innings of the series.

That lead started to look a little shaky in the ninth. Only three outs away from a ticket to the World Series, Houston closer Roberto Osuna gave up a leadoff single to Urshela, which was quickly followed by a jaw-dropping, full-count, game-tying two-run shot from DJ LeMahieu that barely cleared the right field fence.

With the threat of extra innings and a potential loss looming, the Astros engineered a last-minute rally to regain the lead and stake their claim for the pennant. With two outs and no runners on, George Springer took a five-pitch walk from Aroldis Chapman. In the next at-bat, Houston pinned their hopes on José Altuve — and he didn’t disappoint, lifting a 2-1 slider out to left field for a 406-foot, two-RBI homer that confirmed the Astros’ series win.

The 2019 World Series will mark the third Fall Classic appearance for the Astros and the first for the Nationals. It all begins on Tuesday night.