(The Sports Xchange) - George Springer and Colby Rasmus homered, and Collin McHugh pitched six solid innings as the Houston Astros defeated the Kansas City Royals 5-2 Thursday night in the opener of an American League Division Series.
The defending AL champion Royals lost for the fifth time in seven meetings with the Astros this season. Last year, the Royals beat the Oakland Athletics in the AL wild-card game, then swept the Los Angeles Angels and the Baltimore Orioles before falling to the San Francisco Giants in a seven-game World Series.
While the Astros were a horrid 33-48 on the road during the regular season, they have begun the playoffs with away victories over the New York Yankees and the Royals. Home teams are 0-4 in postseason play this October.
Rasmus, who also homered in the AL wild-card game in the Bronx, has an extra-base hit in his first five postseason games. The left fielder, who belted 25 homers in the regular season, hit right-hander Ryan Madson’s first pitch out to right-center in the eighth.
Springer, who is 8-for-15 with three home runs in four games at Kauffman Stadium, homered in the fifth.
McHugh limited the Royals to four hits and two runs, both solo homers by designated hitter Kendrys Morales. He walked one and struck out one.
After he exited, Astros relievers Tony Sipp, Will Harris, Oliver Perez and Luke Gregerson held the Royals scoreless over the final three innings. Gregerson picked up the save.
The Royals threatened in the eighth with two-out singles by second baseman Ben Zobrist and center fielder Lorenzo Cain. Perez was summoned to face first baseman Eric Hosmer, and the left-hander retired him on a foul pop up to third base.
The Astros loaded the bases with no outs to begin the game. Second baseman Jose Altuve singled to left on right-hander Yordano Ventura’s second pitch. Springer drew a walk in a nine-pitch at-bat, and shortstop Carlos Correa singled to right to fill the bases.
Rasmus and designated hitter Evan Gattis made productive groundouts, each getting home a run. Altuve scored on Rasmus’ grounder to second baseman Ben Zobrist, who made a diving stop.
Springer came home on Gattis’ grounder to shortstop. Ventura threw 24 pitches, 18 for strikes, in the first inning.
The Astros added a run in the second. Center fielder Jake Marisnick doubled to the left-center gap with two outs and scored on Altuve’s single.
Morales led off the Royals’ second with a home run, just inside the right field foul pole on a 2-1 count, hitting McHugh’s 90 mph fastball.
There was a 49-minute rain delay after the second inning.
Chris Young replaced Ventura after the delay. Ventura gave up three runs on four hits and a walk while striking out two, throwing 42 pitches.
In Young’s first two innings, the Astros failed to put the ball in play, six strikeouts and a walk. He wound up throwing four innings of one-run ball.
Morales homered again in the fourth inning on a McHugh changeup. He became the first Royal to have a multi-homer postseason game since Hall of Famer George Brett hit two on Oct. 11, 1985, against Toronto. The blasts were the third and fourth postseason homers of Morales’ career.
Altuve led off the fifth with a single, his third hit. Altuve, who led the American League with 38 stolen bases, was thrown out trying to steal second by catcher Salvador Perez.
That became significant moments later when Springer pounced on 3-1 Young 88 mph fastball and drove it over the left field fence, pushing the Astros’ advantage to 4-2.
Editing by Amlan Chakraborty