Astros, Rays cruise to comfortable victories in opening games of ALDS
Tampa Bay's Randy Arozarena continues playoff heroics with solo shot, steal of home
Randy Arozarena became the first player to hit a home run and steal home in a postseason game, and rookie Shane McClanahan pitched the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox in their AL Division Series opener Thursday night.
Nelson Cruz also homered and McClanahan tossed five stellar innings for the Rays.
Young Wander Franco also sparkled in his playoff debut, delivering an early RBI double that speedy 2020 postseason star Arozarena scored on from first base to get the defending AL champions off to a quick start.
Arozarena, a 26-year-old Cuban who's still a rookie despite setting a postseason record with 10 homers and 29 hits in 20 games a year ago, capped an exhilarating performance by stealing home on Boston reliever Josh Taylor to make it 5-0 in the seventh inning.
It was the first steal of home in a playoff game since Javier Baez of the Chicago Cubs did it against the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the 2016 NLCS.
🚨 RANDY STEALS HOME!!!!! 🚨 <a href="https://t.co/c9aKjhCZme">pic.twitter.com/c9aKjhCZme</a>—@MLB
If not Arozarena's flashy, crowd-pleasing play and the hitting of the 20-year-old Franco, who was promoted to the majors in June, then McClanahan 's pitching may well have been the story of the night.
The 24-year-old lefty, who made his major league debut during Tampa Bay's run to last year's World Series, scattered five hits and struck out three in his first career playoff start.
With one of the lowest payrolls in baseball and a roster lacking household names, the Rays are in the playoffs for a third straight year after winning a franchise-record 100 games and their second straight AL East title.
Rookie right-hander Shane Baz, an Olympic silver medallist who began the season in Class AA and made his major league debut in late September, will start Game 2 for the Rays on Friday.
The Red Sox, who beat the New York Yankees at home in the AL wild card game to advance to the ALDS, will counter with lefty Chris Sale, who returned from Tommy John surgery in mid-August and went 5-1 with a 3.16 ERA over nine starts down the stretch.
Astros shut down White Sox
Lance McCullers Jr. was terrific. Yordan Alvarez delivered, and Jose Altuve scored on a nifty slide.
The Houston Astros sure love October.
McCullers pitched scoreless ball into the seventh inning, and the Astros beat Lance Lynn and the Chicago White Sox 6-1 in Game 1 of their AL Division Series on Thursday.
While Houston is in the playoffs for the fifth straight season, winning the World Series in 2017 and making it to the AL Championship Series last year, Chicago is making a second straight playoff appearance for the first time in franchise history. It lost to Oakland in the first round in 2020.
Game 2 of the best-of-five series is Friday in Houston. The teams also met in the 2005 World Series, with the White Sox sweeping the Astros for the title.
McCullers, playing the role of staff ace after the Astros lost Gerrit Cole in free agency and Justin Verlander to injury in recent years, struck out four and walked none. He set career highs with 13 wins, a 3.16 ERA and 185 strikeouts during the regular season, but he also led the AL with 76 walks.
The 28-year-old McCullers didn't allow a hit until Yoan Moncada singled with one out in the fourth. The right-hander left to a standing ovation after giving up consecutive singles with two outs in the seventh. He waved to the cheering fans just before entering the dugout.
Alvarez hit an RBI double in the third and a solo homer in the fifth. Altuve wowed the crowd of 40,497 when he slid home and slapped the back of the plate just ahead of Yasmani Grandal's tag in the third.
Lynn was making his first playoff appearance since 2018 after posting a career-low 2.69 ERA this season. But the burly right-hander relies on his fastball, and the Astros are one of the majors' best fastball-hitting teams.
Rookie Jake Meyers had two hits and drove in a run for Houston. Brantley chased Lynn with a two-run single.
Chicago got on the board on Jose Abreu's two-out single in the eighth. But Kendall Graveman retired Grandal on a liner to center for the final out.
Abreu was in the lineup after dealing with flu-like symptoms for the last few days. He did not travel with the team to Houston, instead arriving Wednesday night after multiple tests showed his illness wasn't COVID-19-related. The White Sox weren't sure if he'd be able to play before he went through pregame workouts, so they submitted two different lineups to the Astros — one with the 2020 AL MVP and one without him.