Astros Clobber Kluber; Trample Tribe
Four Solo HRs Key 7-2 Thumping

Astros cleared for takeoff
(c) Karen Warren/Houston Chronicle
It may feel like "deja vu all over again" for Houston fans but most won't mind. Last year, the Astros crushed the Red Sox in the first two games of the divisional series by identical 8-2 scores. In 2018, they started out with a 7-2 scalping of the Indians on Friday to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-five series.

Alex Bregman homered and drove in two while three teammates also went deep as Cleveland ace Corey Kluber was treated rudely before a packed Minute Maid house.

It was scoreless until the fourth when Bregman cracked a 2-1 pitch for a leadoff homer. Yuli Gurriel followed with a walk and eventually scored on a base hit by Josh Reddick for a 2-0 lead.

Houston doubled their margin in the fifth when George Springer and Jose Altuve went back-to-back with long balls. Springer's was a no-doubter that was his fifth straight postseason game with a home run. Altuve's snuck into a corner of the Crawford Boxes for 4-0 edge. That was all for Kluber which made the Indians show their vulnerable bullpen for four-plus frames.

Houston ace Justin Verlander, by contrast, had a no-hitter until the sixth when Yan Gomes and Francisco Lindor punched singles. A wild pitch plated the first Indian tally and A.J. Hinch went to reliever Ryan Pressly with the intent of protecting the lead. Jose Ramirez tapped out to first which scored the second Cleveland run but Pressly allowed no more.

The Indians finished with just three hits while the Astros poured it on. Martin Maldonado (aka "The Machete") tomahawked a homer into the Crawfords in the seventh and the scoring ended after Bregman and Reddick added RBI singles.

After Pressly, fans got to see a scoreless inning of relief each from Lance McCullers and Roberto Osuna.

Game 2 of this ALDS takes place Saturday at Minute Maid with a first pitch at 3:35 pm. Central. Carlos Carrasco (17-10) will take the mound for the Tribe while the Champs counter with Gerrit Cole (15-5). Sunday will be a travel day before the series resumes in Cleveland.

One unhappy camper is Astros reliever Hector Rondon who was left off the roster this series while Hinch went with rookie Josh James among others. Rondon did not take the field during player introductions but did appear on the bench during the game. Rondon can look to Brad Peacock and Joe Smith for solace - both season-long relief options who struggled a bit in September and, like Rondon, it cost them a roster spot.

- Bob Hulsey