Verlander, Astros start strong, win ALDS opener

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.

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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.

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. Gonzalez chased Kluber with a hit in the two-run fourth.

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.

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.

–Field Level Media