HOUSTON -- Jose Altuve recorded the 10th three-homer game in postseason history as the Houston Astros jumped on Cy Young Award contender Chris Sale for an 8-2 win over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday at Minute Maid Park in Game 1 of this American League Division Series.
Altuve (3-for-4, three RBIs) became the first player in franchise history to homer three times in a postseason game, doing so twice off Sale (0-1). The All-Star second baseman, batting champion, and MVP candidate, followed a solo shot from Alex Bregman in the first inning to stake Houston to a 2-0 lead before adding a two-out shot off Sale in the fifth and a leadoff dinger against Red Sox right-handed reliever Austin Maddox in the seventh.
After clubbing his first two homers to left-center field, Altuve pushed the Houston lead to six runs with his blast to left in the seventh. The Astros grabbed a 1-0 series lead by socking four home runs overall while getting two-run base hits from Marwin Gonzalez and Brian McCann.
Sale, making his first career postseason start, was shaky throughout his five-plus innings of work. He surrendered nine hits and one walk and was charged with seven earned runs while striking out six. Gonzalez drove home Evan Gattis and Josh Reddick with his two-out hit in the fourth before Gattis and Reddick reached in succession to chase Sale in the bottom of the sixth.
Astros right-hander Justin Verlander (1-0) labored following a quick start, coughing up a 2-0 lead before rallying to a strong finish. Verlander needed 79 pitches to complete four innings, having surrendered a two-out single to Sandy Leon in the second and a sacrifice fly to Rafael Devers that scored Mookie Betts in the fourth.
But Verlander tossed just 20 pitches total in the fifth and sixth, and by the time right-hander Chris Devenski entered in relief in the seventh, the Astros led by five. Verlander allowed two runs on six hits and two walks with three strikeouts in six innings for his eighth postseason win.
NOTES: Boston Red Sox DH Eduardo Nunez was lost with a right knee injury in the first inning, pulling up lame after hitting a ground ball to Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman. Nunez, who played in just one game since Sept. 9 while dealing with an injury to the same knee, failed to make it to first base and was carried off the field by a Red Sox trainer and Boston manager John Farrell. ... Astros manager A.J. Hinch remains undecided on the role for RHP Lance McCullers, whose injury-marred second half limited him to six starts and 27 1/3 innings following the break. RHPs Brad Peacock and Charlie Morton outperformed McCullers as starters, thus McCullers could be used out of the bullpen. Of McCullers' 58 career appearances, none have come in relief. ... Boston RHP Austin Maddox earned an ALDS roster spot over RHP Matt Barnes in part because Maddox posted a 0.66 ERA in 10 games during the final month. During that span, Barnes produced a 5.59 ERA in 11 games. ... With 2B Dustin Pedroia and 3B Nunez hobbled, the Red Sox opted to keep an extra infielder (Deven Marrero) on their ALDS roster. That eliminated a spot for veteran OF Chris Young, a Houston native.