SAN DIEGO – After the Houston Astros bashed the ball all over Dodger Stadium for the past week, they found it a whole lot harder to slug when they moved a couple of hours down the coast for the AL Championship Series.
Tampa Bay limited the Astros' star-studded lineup to nine hits — but just one for extra bases — in the Rays' 2-1 victory to open the ALCS at Petco Park on Sunday night.
The Houston offense that set off postseason fireworks against Minnesota and Oakland was a dull squib in San Diego — at least after José Altuve's first-inning homer, the Astros' 14th long ball of these playoffs and their 13th in the last five games.
The Astros got no more big hits against Blake Snell and the Rays' justifiably vaunted bullpen. They mounted significant rallies in five different innings, but repeatedly failed to get the key knock that would have turned a tight game into something more comfortable for the defending AL champions.
“It’s disappointing, but those guys have a good pitching staff,” Houston manager Dusty Baker said. “We hit some balls good, and we threatened. Opportunity is the name of the game. If you keep getting opportunities, sooner or later you’re going to come through. We had a heck of an opportunity tonight, but they just got away.”
Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa and the Astros left 10 men on base in the opener, going just 2 for 8 with runners in scoring position but driving in no runs with those two hits.
Houston scored 33 runs in four games while knocking AL West champion Oakland out of the Division Series in Chavez Ravine last week, even batting .333 with runners in scoring position against the A's.
It’s much too early in the series for the Astros to feel anything is wrong with their offense. In fact, Alex Bregman felt quite good about Game 1, other than the result.