Houston 7, Cleveland 2
When: 2:05 PM ET, Friday, October 5, 2018
Where: Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas
Chris Conroy, 1B -
Chad Fairchild, 2B -
Jerry Layne, 3B -
Tim Timmons, LF -
Jeff Nelson, RF -
Alex Bregman slugged his fifth career postseason home run, and Justin Verlander delivered a strong start for the Houston Astros, who claimed Game 1 of their American League Division Series against the visiting Cleveland Indians 7-2 on Friday.
Bregman was the first of four Astros to smack solo home runs, with George Springer and Jose Altuve adding back-to-back homers in the fifth inning off Indians right-hander Corey Kluber (0-1). Catcher Martin Maldonado added a leadoff homer to ignite the Astros' two-run seventh.
The Astros have recorded seven four-or-more homer games in the postseason, the previous instance coming in Game 5 of the 2017 World Series when they slugged five against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Houston took a 1-0 series lead with Game 2 set for Saturday at Minute Maid Park.
Verlander (1-0) allowed two runs on two hits and two walks with seven strikeouts over 5 1/3 innings. He tired in the sixth, throwing 27 pitches while loading the bases for right-hander Ryan Pressly, who uncorked a wild pitch that allowed Yan Gomes to score. Indians second baseman Jose Ramirez cut the deficit to 4-2 with a run-scoring groundout, but Pressly held the line there.
"I think you want to set a tone," Verlander said. "You want to allow your team to go out there and kind of put up a couple runs and just relax. Was able to do that early in the game. First five innings was right where I wanted to be against a team that's kind of given me fits."
Kluber showcased signs of vulnerability early despite not allowing a hit until the fourth inning. He issued a two-out walk to Bregman in the first inning and plunked a pair of batters, Marwin Gonzalez and Tyler White, in the second. Kluber hit just three batters during the regular season.
Still, Kluber had just 33 pitches entering the fourth inning. But when Bregman yanked a 2-1 cutter into the Crawford Boxes in left, Kluber lost his no-hit and shutout bid. That 396-foot blast snapped a scoreless tie and set the table for Josh Reddick to deliver a two-out RBI single later in the fourth.
"He lives on the edges of the plate. When he does that, you really just have to go into battle mode, and we did that," Bregman said of Kluber. "Then we're able to hit some pitches over the middle of the plate, hit some of the mistakes, which with guys like him and [Carlos] Carrasco and their team, you don't get a lot of mistakes. They're tough."
Gonzalez chased Kluber with a hit in the two-run fifth.
Kluber departed after allowing four runs on six hits and two walks over 4 2/3 innings. It marked just the second time this season he surrendered three homers in a start, the first on May 2 against Texas. His two strikeouts matched his season-low output.
"The fourth inning was a really tough inning," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "... Just seemed like with his two-seamer, when he left it up, they made him pay. I think they pretty much did that with the whole staff. And when we made a mistake, they had the four home runs, and they showed us they can score runs getting hits also. But the damage was done on balls that were elevated."
Verlander was terrific early, particularly after his two-out walk to Ramirez in the first inning.
Verlander retired 13 consecutive batters after surrendering his first baserunner, striking out the side in the third. He recorded two strikeouts to open the fifth and, after Indians right fielder Melky Cabrera closed that inning with a fly-ball out, Verlander carried a no-hitter into the sixth.
"He is a big-time, big adrenaline pitcher that never ceases to surprise you or amaze you," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "It's always -- he seems to be always there for you. These starts matter to him, and he shows it, wears his emotion on his sleeve. He's ultra focused and does a really good job of executing a game plan."
--Field Level Media
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