HOUSTON (AP) — Justin Verlander pitched six shutout innings, Yordan Alvarez homered twice and the Houston Astros held on for a 6-4 win over the Minnesota Twins in their American League Division Series opener Saturday.
Jose Altuve hit a leadoff home run and Alvarez had three RBIs as the defending World Series champions earned their 10th straight victory in Game 1 of a Division Series.
Verlander settled in after a shaky start and the Astros built a 5-0 lead through six innings with big swings from Altuve and Alvarez.
Héctor Neris took over for Verlander to start the seventh. With two outs, Jorge Polanco hit a soaring three-run homer to right field. Two pitches later, rookie Royce Lewis launched his third homer in three playoff games to make it 5-4.
In the bottom half, Caleb Thielbar entered to face Alvarez with one out. The slugger became the first left-handed hitter to homer off Thielbar this season when he smacked an off-speed pitch off the foul pole in right to give Houston some insurance.
Bryan Abreu got four outs, striking out three, and Ryan Pressly fanned two in a scoreless ninth for the save. He struck out Lewis to end it.
The best-of-five series continues Sunday night in Houston.
Altuve pounced on Bailey Ober’s first pitch for his first career leadoff homer in the playoffs. Alvarez connected off Ober on a two-run shot in the third to make it 3-0.
The 40-year-old Verlander allowed four hits and walked three to get his 17th win in 35 post-season starts. The three-time Cy Young Award winner returned to the AL West champions this summer in a trade with the New York Mets.
Kristie Rieken, The Associated Press