The Houston Astros kicked off the postseason on Thursday with a rather convincing 8-2 win over the Boston Red Sox. The game was actually a nail biter for the first few innings as neither Justin Verlander nor Chris Sale had their best stuff on the mound. But the Astros did what the Astros have always seemed to do this season — hang close, then break the game open late thanks to lots of home runs. The Astros now have the lead in the best-of-five series.
JOSE ALTUVE: The American League MVP voting is based on regular season stats. And Altuve put up some impressive regular season numbers. But if any of the voters had yet to submit ballots, then maybe this game changed their minds. Altuve went three for four from the plate, with all three of those hits being home runs. His first-inning homer, immediately after Alex Bregman’s dinger, put the Astros up 2-0. HIs fifth-inning homer put the team up 5-2, and he pretty much sealed the game with his eighth-inning shot. Altuve was only the third Astros player, along with Carlos Correa and Carlos Beltran, to hit two-plus home runs in a postseason game. He was only the second second baseman to achieve the feat in the history of postseason baseball.
JUSTIN VERLANDER: The Astros acquired Verlander for the purpose of starting games like this. He struggled a bit, barely getting through six innings and striking out only three Boston hitters while throwing 99 pitches. But Verlander has lots of postseason experience, and he has learned that the most important thing to do is to keep your team in the game, and keep the Astros in the game he did, giving up just two runs despite giving up six hits and walking two batters.
JOSH REDDICK: Reddick was two for three from the plate, scoring twice. But that’s not where Reddick earned his game MVP status from. Instead, that moment came in the second inning when he fielded a base hit off the bat of Boston’s Sandy Leon and fired a laser shot to nail Dustin Pedroia at third base to end the inning. Mitch Moreland scored on the play to make it 2-1 Astros, and if Reddick’s throw was late, the Red Sox would have had the momentum and a player in scoring position.
MARWIN GONZALEZ: Gonzalez started in left field for the Astros Thursday. He only had one hit, but that one hit was a two-out double in the fourth inning that plated Evan Gattis and Yuli Gurriel and put the Astros up 4-2. Those two runs were the final runs the Astros needed for the day, as the Red Sox would not score again.
THE DFAS (DESIGNATED FOR ASSIGNMENT):
CHRIS SALE: Sale is one of the best pitchers in baseball, and he’s been the chief cog of the Red Sox rotation for the entire season. But he fell apart on Thursday. He gave up two first-inning home runs and flirted with danger the entire day before departing after the fifth inning. He gave up nine hits, three home runs and seven earned runs — far from the performance Boston expected from its ace.
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COLLIN MCHUGH: McHugh played a big role in the Astros' 2015 success, starting several games in the playoffs. But he missed the first half of this season because of injury. He ended up starting 12 games, going 5-2 with a 3.55 ERA in 63.1 innings. But Thursday morning the Astros decided to leave McHugh off the roster in favor of Lance McCullers Jr., who has struggled for most of the second half of the season because of injuries, the thinking seeming to be that McCullers might be better suited to coming out of the bullpen.
EDUARDO NUNEZ: Nunez was literally carried off of the field in the first inning after aggravating a right knee injury that had caused him to miss all but one of Boston’s last 20 games of the season. Nunez was a key component for the Red Sox, hitting .321/.353/.539 with eight home runs in 38 games after joining Boston from San Francisco. His status for the rest of the playoff series is up in the air.
MLB NETWORK: This game was played on the MLB Network, which, amazingly, is still not available on some cable/satellite networks. And on those for which it is available, it is generally on one of the premium tiers, which means that lots of people with cable and satellite still don’t have access to it. MLB did decide to make the network free for all as part of a preview for those who wanted to watch the game, but if your system didn’t even have the network in the first place, then there was no way you could see the game.
Friday’s Game Two will start shortly after 1 p.m., and unlike Game One, this game will be aired on FS1, which is available to more fans.