HOUSTON (AP) - Justin Verlander looked every bit the October ace, Jose Altuve polished his postseason resume and the Houston Astros kept rolling, beating the Tampa Bay Rays 6-2 Friday to open their AL Division Series.
The Astros, who won a franchise-record 107 games for the best record in the majors, began their quest for a second World Series title in three years against a Rays team that downed Oakland 5-1 in the wild-card game this week.
Verlander kept up his dominant run this year when he posted an MLB-most 21 wins, allowing just a soft single in seven shutout innings. He struck out eight and improved to 8-0 in 12 career ALDS appearances.
Rays starter Tyler Glasnow had given up just three singles when he walked Josh Reddick on four pitches to begin the fifth. He struck out George Springer, but Altuve then tagged him for a two-run homer, lining a fastball into the left field seats.
The sellout crowd of 43,360, which included Astros Hall of Famers Nolan Ryan and Craig Biggio, erupted into deafening cheers and fans twirled bright orange towels as Altuve trotted around the bases, a huge grin plastered on his face.
Altuve, a former Lexington Legends infielder, has homered in Game 1 of the ALDS for three straight years, and the small-but-powerful second baseman now has nine home runs in 33 career postseason games.
Game 2 is Saturday when Gerrit Cole, who has won 16 straight decisions and led the majors in strikeouts, starts against Tampa Bay's Blake Snell.