Road-rampaging Houston Astros rip Kansas City Royals in Game 1

By Alan Eskew, The Sports Xchange
Houston Astros left fielder Colby Rasmus (28) slaps hands with third base coach Gary Pettis (10) after hitting a solo home run against the Kansas City Royals in the eighth inning of game 1 of the American League Division Series, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri on October 8, 2015. Photo by Jeff Moffett/UPI
1 of 4 | Houston Astros left fielder Colby Rasmus (28) slaps hands with third base coach Gary Pettis (10) after hitting a solo home run against the Kansas City Royals in the eighth inning of game 1 of the American League Division Series, at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri on October 8, 2015. Photo by Jeff Moffett/UPI | License Photo

KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The Houston Astros were horrid on the road, 15 games below .500.

Then the postseason started.


George Springer and Colby Rasmus homered, and Collin McHugh pitched six solid innings as the 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.


"Obviously, it's not the way we wanted to start out, especially at home," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said.

The Astros has won at Yankee Stadium and Kauffman Stadium to begin the playoffs. Home teams are 0-4 in postseason play this October.

"To be able get that first win here is awesome," said Houston center fielder Jake Marisnick, who had two hits, including a double, and scored a run. "It's huge for us. That's a great ballclub over there."

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.

"This time of year, big-time players come through and find a way to contribute," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "So he's obviously announcing his presence on this center stage. He likes playing here."


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.

"That wasn't even his best tonight," Hinch said. "Man, he gutted it out with some really good breaking balls and some really good cut fastballs. He never really throws the same pitch twice in a row. He never really ends up in the middle of the plate."

After McHugh 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.

"It's a big road win against a good lineup," Gregerson said.

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 Hosmer, and the left-handed reliever retired the left-handed batter on a foul pop up to third base.

"He's a tough at-bat," Hosmer said. "He mixes arm angles. For me, the first time facing him all year, I wanted to see what he had, what his pitches were looking like and his action was looking like. He just missed a slider 1-1, looking back on it I probably should have been more aggressive 1-0, but just didn't get it done."


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 plate appearance, 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.

"There's no doubt the first inning set the tone and gave our team a little bit of an exhale," Hinch said.

The Astros added a run in the second. 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, and Chris Young replaced Ventura when play resumed. Ventura gave up three runs on four hits and a walk while striking out two, throwing 42 pitches.


"We were considering bringing him back on the fourth game," Royals manager Ned Yost said of the decision to remove Ventura. "Fifty minutes, max, for him, 45 for a young guy is more like our number. So we made the decision to go with Chris Young, and he came in and did a good job."

In Young's first two innings, the Astros failed to put the ball in play, six strikeouts and a walk. Young wound up throwing four innings of one-run ball.

"It's no secret what I do," he said. "I elevated my fastball and worked down, too, and threw my off-speed off of it. I made a mistake to Springer, and he hit it out."

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 the Toronto Blue Jays. 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.

"It's not a death sentence to lose Game 1," Yost said.

NOTES: Astros CF Carlos Gomez (intercostal strain) did not start, but he said he would play Friday. Jake Marisnick replaced him in center, and Gomez appeared as a pinch runner. ... Royals LF Alex Gordon batted eighth for only the second time since 2010. SS Alcides Escobar returned to the top of the order. ... RHP Jeremy Guthrie, Kansas City's starter for Game 7 of the 2014 World Series, was left off the ALDS roster. So was OF Jonny Gomes, who was acquired in an Aug. 31 trade with Atlanta. ... The Astros omitted RHP Chad Qualls from their roster. He was a member of Houston's 2005 World Series team. ... OF Terrance Gore, who has been called the fastest man in baseball, was included on the Royals' roster, giving manager Ned Yost a pinch-running weapon. ... Julianna Zobrist, a contemporary Christian recording artist and the wife of Royals 2B Ben Zobrist, performed the national anthem.


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