After a long, strenuous September filled with playoff doubts, the Houston Astros spent the beginning of October on the sidelines, perched on their throne as AL West Champions and watched the Wild Card series’ play out in front of their eyes. On Saturday, after a well deserved week off, the Astros were back on field to start Game 1 of the American League Divisional Series and begin the march towards their second straight World Series Championship & third consecutive World Series appearance.
The stage was set at Minute Maid Park in Houston for the Astros to send their Ace and crown jewel from the trade deadline, Justin Verlander, to the mound against the 6 foot 9 righty, Bailey Ober, Ex-Astro Carlos Correa and the AL Central Champion Minnesota Twins. After closing out September with back to back clutch performances from Verlander to secure a playoff berth and division title, the Astros needed their leader to again rise to the occasion and take an early series lead.
J.V. was shaky to start the game, allowing three hits and two walks over the first 2 innings, but was saved by a few well-timed double play balls and eventually hit his groove going 6 strong innings with 6 Ks and 3 walks. Ober, on the other hand, had his hands full with the potent Astros lineup and gave up the lead on the first pitch of the game after Jose Altuve crushed a home run to left field. The Astros struck again in the third inning when Yordan Alvarez put one into the stands with Alex Bregman on 1st base to give the Astros a 3-0 advantage.
Astros take Game One of ALDS despite the bullpen being VERY shaky
With the Astros up 5-0 in the seventh inning, the Twins took a run at Hector Neris after he put 2 base runners on with no outs . It appeared Neris was going to escape the jam after striking out Willi Castro and Edouard Julien, however with 4 quick runs on back-to-back dingers from Jorge Polanco and Royce Lewis, Neris wouldn’t even escape the inning prompting a mound visit from Dusty Baker resulting in Bryan Abreu getting the call to stop the bleeding and end the 7th with the score 5-4.
After another solo moonshot by Alvarez (his 2nd of the night) to make it 6-4, the Astros pushed the game just out of the Twins' reach allowing the 2x All Star closer Ryan Pressly to come in and shut the door on the save, striking out two en route to a perfect 1-2-3 final inning.
The Astros host the Twins for ALDS Game 2 on Sunday October 8 at 8:03EST. Houston has lefty Framber Valdez (12-11, 200Ks, 3.45 ERA) getting the start against Twins stud righty, Pablo Lopez (11-8, 234Ks, 3.66 ERA) The series shifts back to Minnesota for Games 3 and 4 (Tuesday/Wednesday) before possibly heading back to Houston for a deciding Game 5 (if necessary) on Friday the 13th.