Houston designated hitter Yordan Alvarez, center, is greeted by teammates in the dugout after hitting a solo home run off Chicago starting pitcher Reynaldo Lopez in the fifth inning Thursday in Game 1 of a baseball American League Division Series in Houston. The Astros went on to a 6-1 win. David J. Phillip/Associated Press

HOUSTON — 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.

“You get the ball in Game 1 and your team is expecting this from you,” McCullers said.

Michael Brantley added two hits and two RBI as the AL West champions showed off their playoff experience in an impressive opening performance. McCullers allowed four hits in 6 2/3 innings in his eighth career postseason start.

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, 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 Ks in the regular season, but he also led the AL with 76 walks.

“Everyone did their part, did their thing and we came out with a great win,” McCullers said.

McCullers, 28, didn’t allow a hit until Yoán 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.

“The numbers speak for themselves,” White Sox Manager Tony La Russa said. “We didn’t do much with him.”

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.

“I think the turn of the game was that slide by Altuve … that gave us the momentum,” McCullers said.

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.

Lynn was tagged for five runs and six hits in 3 2/3 innings. Five of the six hits that he allowed came off his four-seam or cut fastball.

“I gave up some two-out runs on pitches that could have been better,” Lynn said. “When it’s all said and done I just wasn’t making quality pitches when I needed to. That’s pretty much it.”

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 José 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.


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