Cole Tops Sale, Sox, 7-3
Springer, Correa Pace Offense

Gurriel, Gattis doff helmets
(c) Steve Gonzales/Houston Chronicle
Last October, the Astros shredded lefthander Chris Sale in Game 1 of the ALDS by an 8-2 score that set the trend for a 3-1 series victory. Friday night proved little had changed. Behind seven innings of Gerrit Cole, the Astros took a 7-3 verdict over Sale that moved Houston within 2-1/2 games of Boston for the league's best record. 37,244 dynamically-priced fans overflowed into Minute Maid to watch the spectacle.

The Astros literally stole the game's first run when leadoff batter George Springer walked and moved up to second on a base hit by Alex Bregman. When Carlos Correa struck out swinging, the third strike skipped away from Boston catcher Sandy Leon with Springer racing all the way around from second. Yuli Gurriel beat out an infield tap which plated Bregman for a 2-0 lead.

The Sawx got one run back in the second when Brock Holt spanked a two-out double off Cole that plated Eduardo Nunez.

Houston answered in the third when Springer hammered his team-high 12th homer on a rocket to center then Gurriel singled home Correa for a 4-1 advantage.

Boston made it close when Mitch Moreland and former Astro J.D. Martinez launched back-to-back homers to start the fourth. The 4-3 lead held up until the bullpens appeared. Sale lasted six inning while fanning six. Cole stayed through seven frames, allowing five hits and a walk while striking out seven.

The Astros provided breathing room in the eighth as Correa smacked his 10th homer off Joe Kelly. After Gurriel walked, Evan Gattis got into the act with his eighth long ball of the year.

Chris Devenski and Brad Peacock closed out in relief. The Astros maintain their lead over the Seattle Mariners who, once again, stayed one game off the pace.

Former Detroit teammates square off in a Saturday night duel when lefty David Price (5-4) takes the mound for Boston while Justin Verlander (7-2) pitches for 36-22 Houston. The first pitch is slated for 6:15 pm Central before a Fox TV audience.

- Bob Hulsey