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Astros hot bats go cold in 2-1 loss in ALCS Game One

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 11: Alex Bregman #2 of the Houston Astros reacts after striking out against the Tampa Bay Rays during the eighth inning in game one of the American League Championship Series at PETCO Park on October 11, 2020 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 11: Alex Bregman #2 of the Houston Astros reacts after striking out against the Tampa Bay Rays during the eighth inning in game one of the American League Championship Series at PETCO Park on October 11, 2020 in San Diego, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /
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The Houston Astros squandered chances to score runs as they lost ALCS Game One.

It was a frustrating evening for the Houston Astros as their offense floundered in a 2-1 loss to the Rays in the first game of the ALCS. The same lineup that carried them through the ALDS against Oakland suddenly couldn’t score when it mattered, with some bad luck and an inconsistent strike zone mixed together with some poor at-bats to create a cocktail of calamity.

Framber Valdez had an excellent outing, tossing six innings of two-run ball. He allowed four hits and four walks while striking out eight, throwing 60 of his 95 pitches for strikes. Blake Taylor, Enoli Paredes and Brooks Raley combined to throw two scoreless frames, with Paredes looking exceptionally sharp.

Valdez allowed a solo homer to Randy Arozarena in the fourth inning, and then a leadoff walk came around to score in the fifth. His command slipped in the sixth but he escaped unscathed. All told, it was a really good outing for the lefthander, and it’s a performance the Astros would gladly take from any starter in the postseason.

Jose Altuve got things started on offense with a solo homer in the first inning, but it was all frustration after that. The Astros left 10 runners on base in this game, five of which were left in scoring position. The worst offender was Yuli Gurriel grounding into a double play on the first pitch he saw with the bases loaded and one out in the eighth inning.

There was also some bad luck involved. With two runners on in the fourth, Kyle Tucker smoked a ball that happened to be caught by the shortstop who was in perfect position to double off Alex Bregman at second base. It was that kind of night for an offense that had no trouble scoring runs in Los Angeles but suddenly couldn’t come through in the clutch in San Diego.

Interestingly enough, this is the third time the Astros have played a postseason game in San Diego. All three games have been losses with the team scoring only one run in each. The previous two games were in the 1998 NLDS, a frustrating series in which Randy Johnson was outdueled twice and the Astros just couldn’t get anything going on offense.

Best Effort Wasted

It’s a shame the lineup couldn’t support Valdez enough to get him a win, as there’s a legitimate chance this will be the best start they get in this whole series. He’s the only Astros pitcher to complete five innings in a postseason start thus far, and though the remaining starters certainly have the ability to spin a gem, they haven’t done it yet in this postseason.

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Raley threw 29 pitches in this game so he’s likely unavailable for Game Two. Taylor should be available after throwing 13 pitches, but he’s the only lefty Dusty Baker will have available. Makes you wonder why they added Chase De Jong to the ALCS roster instead of Cionel Perez.

The Rays, meanwhile, have a deep and talented bullpen, as we saw in Game One. The Astros wore down Blake Snell and forced him out of the game after five innings, but they could never push across another run despite having enough opportunities. Some of that is their fault, some of it is bad luck, but some of it is the fact that the Tampa Bay pitchers are just flat out good.

Unfortunately there are really no adjustments to be made. Gurriel can’t seem to buy a hit in the postseason, and Josh Reddick and Martin Maldonado have struggled as well. The bottom third of the lineup has been a black hole, but the Astros bench doesn’t have anyone who could improve on that. Baker will have to stay the course and hope the guys come through.

We’ll see if the offense can redeem itself in time to recover in this ALCS, because a 2-0 hole would be a tough hill to climb. Lance McCullers will face off against his former teammate Charlie Morton today at 3:07 p.m. CT.

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