HOUSTON — Carlos Correa was aggressive at the plate. Same for Yordan Alvarez and Kyle Tucker. Jose Altuve turned in a couple of gems in the field.
The Houston Astros are relentless - especially in the playoffs.
Correa hit a two-run double during Houston‘s five-run seventh inning, and the Astros beat the Chicago White Sox 9-4 on Friday for a 2-0 lead in their AL Division Series.
“They’ve been here before and they’ve experienced it,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “Belief is a big part of this game and belief will take you a long, long ways - and these guys as a unit, they believe.”
Sure looks that way.
Tucker homered and drove in three runs as the Astros moved within one win of their fifth straight appearance in the AL Championship Series. Alex Bregman had two hits and scored twice, and Altuve made a couple of big plays.
“I think experience plays a huge part of it,” Correa said. “The moment is never too big for the guys in that clubhouse.”
Game 3 of the best-of-five series is Sunday night in Chicago.
The Astros grabbed the lead for good on Alvarez‘s tiebreaking RBI single off Aaron Bummer (0-1) with one out in the seventh. Craig Kimbrel then took over and retired Yuli Gurriel before Correa’s drive to right sailed past Leury García, who turned all the way around while trying to track down the ball.
Correa screamed and gestured to the crowd to yell with him as he reached second. The star shortstop is eligible for free agency after this season, and it’s going to be quite costly for the AL West champion Astros to keep him.
The versatile García had just moved from second base to right, replacing Adam Engel.
“They’re really good, but I thought we played really well, too,” White Sox manager Tony La Russa said. “But they played better - just enough.”
Tucker then punctuated the inning with a two-run shot into the seats in left, lifting Houston to a 9-4 lead.
The Astros got 10 hits for the second straight day, but their defense stole the show.
Altuve led the way. He made a diving grab to take a hit away Andrew Vaughn in the sixth. He wowed again when he fielded a sharp grounder from Eloy Jiménez and got the throw to first base in time for the first out of the eighth.
Gurriel got the first two outs of the fourth when the first baseman turned an unassisted double play, and Tucker dashed to grab a fly ball hit by Yasmani Grandal with runners on first and second in the seventh.
“Defense is something that we work on before we even hit,” Baker said. “These guys take pride in defense. And so that’s something I think is overlooked by a lot of clubs, but never on my clubs.”
The Astros rolled to a 6-1 win in Game 1 behind a splendid start by Lance McCullers Jr. Framber Valdez struggled in Game 2, allowing four runs and seven hits in 4 1/3 innings.
The White Sox grabbed a 4-2 lead with three runs in the fifth. Luis Robert and José Abreu each hit an RBI single, and Grandal added a sacrifice fly.
But the Astros tied it in the bottom half on Gurriel’s two-run single. It was the first hit of the series for the AL batting champion.
The loss drops the AL Central champion White Sox to 0-6 in Houston this season. They are trying to avoid another early postseason exit after they were eliminated by Oakland in the first round last year.
“Our backs are against the wall right now,” shortstop Tim Anderson said. “We know what we need to do, we’ve got to take care of business. Things will get better. It’s good to head back home, for sure.”
Robert and Anderson had three hits apiece. Abreu, who had been slowed by flu-like symptoms, had two hits and drove in a run.
White Sox right-hander Lucas Giolito permitted four runs and three hits in 4 1/3 innings. He tied a season high with five walks in his second career playoff start.
Giolito threw complete games in his previous two starts against the Astros, including a three-hitter in a 10-1 victory on July 17.
Houston’s bullpen shut down the White Sox after the early exit by Valdez, with five relievers combining for 4 2/3 innings of four-hit ball. Ryne Stanek (1-0) worked the seventh for the win.
Alvarez, who homered and drove in two runs in Game 1, has been great for the Astros in his return to the postseason. The 2019 AL Rookie of the Year returned this season after being relegated to watching the team’s playoff run on television last year after having surgery on both knees.
TOPPING THE CHARTS
Gurriel’s hit and two RBIs Friday gave him the most hits (52) and RBIs (27) in the playoffs of any Cuban in MLB history. He passed Yasiel Puig on the hits list and Tony Pérez in RBIs.
Following an off day, rookie Luis Garcia (11-8, 3.30 ERA) starts for Houston in Game 3. The White Sox have yet to name a starter for that game.
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