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Houston gets the jump on Cleveland to take 1-0 series lead

It’s October and George Springer, Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman are all hitting home runs once again, helping the Houston Astros to a post-season win.

A year after launching a World Series-record 15 homers in winning their first championship, the Astros picked up right where they left off, hitting four home runs to power past the Cleveland Indians 7-2 Friday in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.

Martin Maldonado also connected for the Astros, who didn’t waste any time displaying the same power that carried them to last year’s title.

Much was made about the pitching prowess these teams possess in the days leading up to this game. But it was a bunch of longballs to put the Astros ahead in this best-of-five series.

“As much as I’ve heard different opinions about our offence, it’s pretty long, it’s pretty good, it’s pretty potent,” manager AJ Hinch said. “Case in point today.”

Astros turn Minute Maid Park into launching pad:

The Houston Astros hit four home runs, as they bashed the Cleveland Indians 7-2 in the American League Division Series opener. 1:54

Houston’s pop backed up a solid start by Justin Verlander, who bested Corey Kluber in a matchup of Cy Young Award-winning aces in the first post-season meeting between these teams.

Verlander took a no-hitter into the sixth inning and got his 12th playoff win. He allowed two hits and two runs in 5 1/3 innings — the Indians finished with only three hits, all singles.

Kluber, a two-time Cy Young winner who was coming off his first 20-win season, was tagged for three home runs in 4 2/3 innings. It was a repeat performance from last October’s ALDS, when he made two starts against the Yankees and left with a 12.79 ERA.

Game 2 is Saturday in Houston. Gerrit Cole starts for the Astros against Carlos Carrasco.

The Astros hit 27 homers last post-season — Springer hit five in the World Series and set a record by connecting in four straight games on his way to winning the MVP award.

Bregman, coming off a breakout year, got Houston’s first hit with his drive to the Crawford Boxes in left field to start a two-run fourth inning.

“The only thing I can say about him is without him we wouldn’t be here,” Altuve said.

The 103-win Astros were still up 2-0 when Springer led off the fifth with a full-count homer to left. That made him just the third player in major league history to homer in five straight post-season games.

“I’m happy that I was able to help us win in all of those games and be a sparkplug,” Springer said.

Altuve hits 8th post-season homer

Two pitches later Altuve, last year’s AL MVP, connected for his eighth career post-season homer when he also sent one to left field. He began last year’s playoffs with three home runs in the ALDS opener against Boston.

Kluber watched stone-faced as Altuve headed for first and shook his head slightly as he rounded the bases and the crowd roared with scattered chants of “MVP.”

Kluber followed up his splendid regular season with another playoff dud. A year after giving up four homers in two starts against the Yankees, the longball again proved to be a problem for him. He left with two outs in the fifth inning after allowing six hits and four runs while walking three.

“Last year has nothing to do with today,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “They’re a good team. He made a couple mistakes. They made him pay for it.”

Verlander was masterful through the first five innings, with Cleveland’s only baserunner in that span coming on a walk to Jose Ramirez with two outs in the first. The Houston right-hander set down 13 in a row after that, fanning seven, including striking out the side in the third.

CBC.ca

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