MLB.com Columnist

Richard Justice

Astros revel in crowd, comfort of Minute Maid

Houston's regular-season momentum translates to 2-0 lead in ALDS

Astros revel in crowd, comfort of Minute Maid

HOUSTON -- Another perfect day for the Astros. Some tension early. Some struggles early. And then everything started going their way. At the moment, there's magic in the air.

Is there an expiration date on this stuff?

Game Date Results Highlights
Gm 1 Oct. 5 HOU 8, BOS 2 Watch
Gm 2 Oct. 6 HOU 8, BOS 2 Watch
Gm 3 Oct. 8 BOS 10, HOU 3 Watch
Gm 4 Oct. 9 HOU 5, BOS 4 Watch

"Yeah, we couldn't really script it any better," Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel said.

At the moment, these Astros are scary good. Actually, they've been that for a few weeks. They won 14 of 17 to finish the regular season, and they kept the momentum going Friday with a second straight 8-2 victory over the Red Sox in Game 2 of the American League Division Series presented by Doosan.

Gear up for Astros' postseason

Now they're one victory away from the ALCS, and they can get it as early as Sunday in Game 3 at Fenway Park.

First things first.

"It hasn't gotten us anywhere yet, other than in a good position moving into Game 3," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We won't take anything for granted."

Friday began with Houston mayor Sylvester Turner throwing out the ceremonial first pitch, and there's some important symbolism in his presence. When Houston was battered by Hurricane Harvey in late August, it was Turner who encouraged the Astros to return home from a relocated series in St. Petersburg and play baseball in their own ballpark.

Mayor Turner's first pitch

The Astros had been reluctant to do this at a time when Houston was just beginning recovery efforts from historic flooding and massive damage, but Turner said the games would symbolize Houston's resilience. They could be seen as the beginning of the city's reconstruction.

"That's what we do here," Turner said. "We play ball. That was what we needed at that time."

Turner meant that for a couple of hours each day, the Astros would give people something to rally around.

Keuchel finds zone during Game 2 win over Sox

There was an explosion of emotion when they swept a doubleheader against the Mets on Sept. 2, and nothing has been the same since.

In a span of 24 hours, Justin Verlander was acquired, Carlos Correa returned from the disabled list and the Astros rediscovered the mojo of a regular season in which they won 101 times.

Keuchel, Correa on 2-0 ALDS lead

It's tricky connecting these dots, but the emotion of that weekend -- being back home for a brief time, diving into relief efforts -- seemed to push a reset button for a team that had lost 19 of 30.

"This has been a team that's gotten some energy and played very, very well since that return," Hinch said. "Some of that is due to getting healthy and seeing what's possible at the end of the season."

The Astros have not trailed in this series, and they have gotten solid starts from Verlander and Keuchel. Their bullpen has allowed one run in 6 1/3 innings, and their offense has scored eight runs twice.

Keuchel's solid Game 2 start

"Just to be at home, everybody is so comfortable here, and we played so well," Keuchel said. "I know we played better, record-wise, on the road this year, but just being back at home at Minute Maid, where everybody's gone through a lot, including ourselves and everybody else, it just means a lot to us to be here and for the fans to be out there."

Correa got his team going in Game 2 with a two-run home run in the first inning and drove in four runs in all. George Springer homered, doubled and walked. The pair had been hitless in Game 1, but the Astros got 12 hits in both games anyway.

Correa, Springer break out in Game 2 win

That's how the Astros led the Majors in runs, and as Hinch said several weeks ago, "I think I could turn the lineup upside down and get the same production."

That depth is best represented by left fielder Marwin Gonzalez, who batted eighth in Games 1 and 2 after a 20-homer, 90-RBI regular season.

Must C: Correa's big Game 2

Red Sox manager John Farrell dealt with the quandary of baseball's deepest lineup by twice intentionally walking AL batting champion Jose Altuve to face Correa, an All-Star.

Correa popped up in the fourth after it happened and then doubled in two runs in the sixth.

What choice did Farrell have? Altuve has reached base seven times in nine plate appearances and homered three times in Game 1.

"The one thing that they have done, they have not missed when we missed in terms of pitch location," Farrell said. "They're very good, they're deep, and they have got a number of ways to beat you."

Richard Justice has been a reporter for MLB.com since 2011. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @RichardJustice. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.