By Jeffrey Flanagan and Brian McTaggart
KANSAS CITY -- Perhaps they don't know better. Maybe the Astros, behind a starting lineup Thursday night of nothing but players younger than 30, aren't aware that they're not supposed to treat the pressures of the postseason like a trip to the candy store.
The surprising Astros pulled off another clutch win by riding six strong innings from right-hander Collin McHugh and homers by George Springer and Colby Rasmus to stun last year's American League pennant-winning Royals, 5-2, at Kauffman Stadium in Game 1 of the AL Division Series.
"We mean business," closer Luke Gregerson said. "We're going to come in here, we're not going to be intimidated by people. We're going to come out here, we're going to hit and move runners and throw a baseball the way we know how to, and that's what we did tonight."
The game was delayed 49 minutes by rain after two innings, with McHugh staying in the game and Royals starter Yordano Ventura leaving. The series returns to Kauffman Stadium today at 3:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1. The winner of Game 1 has won the last eight Division Series.
"Losing Game 1 is not a death sentence," Royals manager Ned Yost said.
The Astros now send Scott Kazmir to the mound in Game 2, with ace Dallas Keuchel awaiting in Game 3 on Sunday (4 p.m. ET on MLB Network) at Minute Maid Park, where he's 15-0 this year, so they could take control of the series with a win Friday.
"That is definitely a good thing that happened for us," Rasmus said.
McHugh pitched to contact and gave up just four hits and two runs, while walking one and striking out one. He gave up two home runs to Royals designated hitter Kendrys Morales.
"For our guys to just grind through nine innings -- put together quality at-bats, one through nine in the order, get guys on base, put pressure on them -- it's really big," McHugh said. "It's a huge game for us."
Ventura started for the Royals and wobbled through two innings, giving up four hits and three runs, while walking one and striking out two. Ventura did not return after the rain delay and was replaced by Chris Young, who gave up just one run in four innings while striking out seven.
"It was an hour," Yost said of why he didn't bring Ventura back. "We were pushing it. We are considering bringing him back for the fourth game, and when he sat there, [pitching coach] Dave [Eiland] and I said, 'OK, 50 minutes max for him,' and 45 for a young guy is more like our number.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Delay doesn't faze McHugh: McHugh came back after the rain delay and picked up where he left off, tossing a 1-2-3 inning. After the delay, he retired 12 of the 15 batters he faced and didn't allow a runner past second base, outside of Morales' second home run, which came in the fourth inning. More >
"I never sat down," said McHugh of the delay. "So I got in the clubhouse, and I think I was making people nervous because I was pacing around the whole time. I threw some heat on my arm and pretty much just paced and made sure I wasn't going to let myself get tight."
K-Mo goes yard twice: Morales belted a homer into the right-field corner in the second inning, then came back and slammed a homer over the right-center-field fence in the fourth. Morales became the first Royals player to hit multiple homers in a postseason game since George Brett in the 1985 AL Championship Series. Morales, who had a three-homer game and a franchise-record 15 total bases on Sept. 20 against Detroit, now has four postseason homers in his career. More >
"Not seeing live pitching for [four] days may have had an effect on us as a team," Morales said through interpreter Pedro Grifol. "But we haven't lost the series."
Astros start quick: The Astros loaded the bases with no outs in the first inning against Ventura and pushed across a pair of runs on groundouts by Rasmus and Evan Gattis. The Astros were outscored, 105-82, in the first inning in the regular season, and they were 58-21 when they scored first. More >
"There's no doubt the first inning set the tone and gave our team a little bit of an exhale," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "You come into an environment like this, you've got the defending American League champions -- it's a packed house of a lot of blue out there, and it's not our color blue."
Threats denied: The Royals didn't have many scoring threats, but they let one slip away in the fifth when they were down only 4-2. With one out, Alex Gordon singled and Alex Rios walked. But Alcides Escobar hit a soft liner to center that was snared by Jake Marisnick on a great diving catch. Then Ben Zobrist rolled out softly to shortstop, ending the threat. The Royals had another chance in the eighth when Eric Hosmer came up representing the tying run with two runners on and two outs against lefty Oliver Perez, but Hosmer fouled out.
"I tried to mix it up and tried to keep it down, because that could have decided the game," Perez said.
"The first game is really important. We're almost playing bonus baseball. The key was to try to at least take one while we're here and handle business at home. We got that out of the way early. Big momentum booster." -- Astros reliever Tony Sipp
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Rasmus tied a Major League record by getting an extra-base hit in his first five postseason games. It had been done four times previously, the last time by Nelson Cruz in 2010.
The Royals said they were 39-17 when leadoff man Escobar swung at the first pitch this season. Escobar did not swing at the first pitch Thursday -- he took a strike.
At the start of the rain delay when the tarp was being unrolled on the field, a member of the Royals' grounds crew appeared to get trapped underneath the tubing in which the tarp is wrapped when he slipped on the field. The Royals said he was examined by a team physician and was OK.
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Kazmir, who threw seven scoreless innings in his first start with the Astros on July 24 in Kansas City, will get the ball in Game 2 at 3:30 p.m. ET on Friday. More >
Royals: The Royals will send out right-hander Johnny Cueto in Game 2 at Kauffman Stadium. Cueto gave up three runs or fewer in each of his final four starts of the regular season. More >