Jose Altuve was a monster in Game 1 on Thursday, and the Astros are off to a fast start in the American League Divisional Series because of it.
Altuve hit three home runs and the Astros rocked Red Sox ace Chris Sale in an 8-2 win at Minute Maid Park, taking a 1-0 lead in the series.
Justin Verlander pitched six innings and got the victory.
The Astros took control early. The started with a 95 mph fastball from Verlander to Xander Bogaerts for a called strike. Bogaerts would pop out and the Red Sox would go down 1-2-3 in the first.
In the bottom of the first, Alex Bregman took Sale deep to give the Astros a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Altuve was up next and stepped into the box with chants of "MVP!" echoing through Minute Maid Park and made it back-to-back homers, extending the lead to 2-0.
Verlander issued two one-out walks in the top of the second which allowed Boston to get one run back on a RBI single from Sandy Leon, but Dustin Pedroia was thrown out reaching for third to end the inning. The score would stay 2-1 until the top of the fourth when the Red Sox would get runners on the corners with no outs. Rafael Devers hit a sac fly to tie the game at 2 before Verlander got out of the inning, however, had already raised his pitch count to 79.
In typical Marwin Gonzalez fashion, he came to the plate in a tie game with two-outs and two on and came through. He drilled a ball opposite field off the right-center wall to score two runs, putting the Astros up 4-2. Sale, like Verlander, would also fall victim of a high pitch count through four innings, ending the fourth at 75 pitches.
The Astros continued to get the better of Sale as Altuve hit his second home run of the game, extending the Astros' lead to 5-2 in the bottom of the fifth. Gattis hit his second double of the game followed by a Reddick walk with no outs in the bottom of the sixth to end Sale's day. Joe Kelly came in for the Red Sox and gave up a single to load the bases before giving up a two-RBI single to Brian McCann to make it 7-2 Astros and give Sale seven earned runs on the day.
Meanwhile, Verlander cruised through the fifth and sixth innings on eight and twelve pitches respectively before Hinch went to the bullpen with the large lead in the seventh. The Astros received a perfect top half of the seventh from Devenski including two strikeouts before Altuve gave the Astros another insurance run with his third solo home run of the game to make it 8-2 in the bottom half of the inning.
Boston would be unable to trim the lead down despite getting a couple of two-out hits off of Harris in the eighth before Liriano was brought in to get the last out of the inning. Joe Musgrove came in for the ninth in a non-save situation and continued to perform well as a reliever, locking up the 8-2 win.
In the end, the Astros played a good defensive game behind good pitching, made use of the long ball including three by the potential MVP, and added additional runs off timely hitting to go up 1-0 on Boston in the series.
The Astros play the Red Sox again Friday at 1:05 p.m. at Minute Maid Park. Dallas Keuchel takes the mound for Houston against Boston's Drew Pomeranz.
This story originally appeared on SportsMap.