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Thursday’s roundup: Astros keep Royals in check

Associated Press

Kansas City, Mo. — Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch has a “soft rule” when it comes to a rain delay during a game: If it lasts about an hour, he’ll usually remove his starting pitcher.

Good thing it’s not a hard rule.

Hinch opted to keep Collin McHugh on the mound after a 49-minute stoppage Thursday night, and the soft-spoken righty responded with a resounding performance. He shut down the Kansas City Royals over six innings for a 5-2 victory in the opener of their AL Division Series.

“We checked in with him a couple times, but he was never really coming out of that game,” Hinch said of McHugh, a surprise 19-game winner this season. “That wasn’t even his best tonight, and he got through a pretty good lineup and battled.”

Three relievers took over and got the game to Luke Gregerson, part of Oakland’s wild-card collapse in Kansas City last year. He handled the ninth for a save.

George Springer and Colby Rasmus went deep for the homer-happy Astros, but they also scored via the same sort of small ball the Royals used in reaching the World Series last season.

“Winning the first game was key,” Astros outfielder Carlos Gomez said. “We did that.”

Yordano Ventura (0-1) yielded three runs on four hits and a walk in two innings for Kansas City, but did not come back following the delay. Chris Young served up Springer’s home run with one out in the fifth, but tossed four otherwise solid innings of relief.

Game 2 is Friday, when lefty Scott Kazmir takes the mound for Houston against right-hander Johnny Cueto in a matchup of pitchers traded days apart this past summer.

“It’s a five-game series,” Royals manager Ned Yost said. “It’s not a death sentence to lose Game 1.”

The Astros, who struggled so mightily on the road this season, have apparently solved their woes just in time. They beat the Yankees 3-0 in New York in Tuesday night’s wild-card game, then took care of a Royals club built specifically for spacious Kauffman Stadium.

Houston also made it the first time since 1970 that visiting teams won baseball’s first four postseason games, STATS said. The other two times it happened were 1906 and 1923.

“Everyone knows we haven’t been playing the best on the road,” reliever Tony Sipp said. “To take one in New York and come here, it shows we’re a different kind of team.”

Rangers win but Beltre in question

A big day by the bottom of the Rangers batting order helped them overcome an injury to slugger Adrian Beltre in the start of their postseason run.

Robinson Chirinos hit a two-run homer off David Price, Rougned Odor added a solo shot and the Rangers beat the Blue Jays, 5-3, on Thursday afternoon in their American League Division Series opener as postseason baseball returned to Toronto for the first time in 22 years.

“It means a lot to the team to come to Toronto and win that first game against a great pitcher,” Chirinos said.

Both starting third baseman left with injuries: Beltre came out in the third with a strained muscle in his lower back and Toronto’s Josh Donaldson in the fifth inning after he was kneed in the head while trying to break up a double play.

Rangers manager Jeff Banister said he wasn’t sure whether Beltre would be available for Game 2 today. In an effort to remain in the series, Beltre had a cortisone shot.

“We want Adrian in there,” Banister said. “He’s the heart and soul of this ballclub.”

An MRI confirmed Beltre had a strained back but no structural damage, general manager Jon Daniels said.

“We haven’t ruled him out of (Game 2),” Daniels said.

Texas will have Joey Gallo and Ed Lucas travel from their Arizona Fall League team in case Beltre needs to be removed from the roster, a decision that also would rule Beltre out of the AL Championship Series.

Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said Donaldson felt light-headed while playing defense in the top of the fifth, forcing the AL MVP candidate to come out of the game.

“They check for concussions, and apparently he passed all the tests,” Gibbons said. “So that’s good news.”

Yovani Gallardo (1-0) allowed two runs and four hits in five innings.

“That’s what we really needed from him,” Banister said. “I think he did a great job.”

Gallardo is 4-0 with a 1.78 ERA in four career starts against Toronto.

“We got in some good hitter’s counts and he wouldn’t give in,” Blue Jays catcher Russell Martin said. “He didn’t make those mistakes that we capitalize on.”

Keone Kela, Jake Diekman and Sam Dyson finished, with Dyson getting a save.

Pitching on 11 days’ rest, Price (0-1) allowed five runs and five hits in seven innings. The former Tigers left-hander dropped to 1-6 with a 4.79 ERA in 11 postseason games, and is 0-6 in six playoff starts.

“I expect to have better results,” a subdued Price said.

Gibbons said Price was the victim of timely hits by the Rangers.