HOUSTON (KXAN) — Pitcher Justin Verlander was doing exactly what the Astros expected.
Verlander was postseason excellent in game one. Through four innings, Verlander didn’t allow a hit and struck out two Tampa Bay Rays hitters.
Still, the Astros needed a spark from the offense.
In the bottom of the fifth, Jose Altuve put 43,000 Astros fans into a frenzy with a two-run home run into the left field stands for a 2-0 Houston lead.
The Astros took a 1-0 lead in its American League Divisional Series beating Tampa Bay 6-2 Friday afternoon. In four postseason appearances over the last decade, Houston is 4-0 in its ALDS opening games.
Houston was still searching for the pivotal hit after stranding five baserunners in the first four innings. Altuve’s blast and a Rays fielding error broke the game open for a 4-0 lead after five.
Alex Bregman and Michael Brantley scored on a Yuli Gurriel pop-up that three Rays couldn’t field in shallow right field for the second scoring play of the series.
In the seventh inning, Yordan Alvarez doubled against Rays reliever Oliver Drake to score Bregman. Gurriel hit a ground rule double to right to bring Alvarez home, upping the Astros lead to 6-0.
Six runs of support was plenty for the Astros ace. Verlander struck out eight in seven innings of work, only allowing a Brandon Lowe single in the top of the fifth.
Reliever Ryan Pressly allowed an Eric Sogard single in the top of the eighth to score Joey Wendle. Austin Meadows followed with a double to center field to make it 6-2.
Pressly exited the game after getting just two outs and runners on the corners. Will Harris got Ji-Man Choi to ground out bringing the top of the eighth to a close and limiting any further damage.
Roberto Osuna closed it out with a clean ninth inning.
Gerrit Cole is expected to get the start against Blake Snell in Game Two. First pitch Saturday is at 8:07 p.m. in Houston.