Astros edge Indians in pitchers duel, take 2-0 series lead in ALDS

Gerrit Cole
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For the second straight day, the Astros out-pitched and out-muscled the Indians as they worked up to a 2-0 lead in the ALDS with a 3-1 win on Saturday. Seven strong innings from right-hander Gerrit Cole and a timely pair of hits from Marwin Gonzalez and Alex Bregman were just enough to take the edge over the AL Central champs, bringing the defending World Series contenders to the brink of their first series win in the 2018 playoffs.

Through the first two innings, Carrasco and Cole were in lockstep. Cole expended seven pitches in a 1-2-3 first inning, while Carrasco induced back-to-back groundouts and polished off the inning with a 3-2 strikeout to Alex Bregman. At the top of the second, Edwin Encarnacion and Marwin Gonzalez spoiled the fledgling no-hitters with a pair of singles, but both players were left stranded as Carrasco and Cole continued to flummox their respective opponents at the plate.

In the third, Francisco Lindor put up the first run of the afternoon. He plucked a 91.5-MPH slider from the middle of the strike zone and drove it out to right field for a solo home run, his first of the postseason. For a while, that was enough for the Indians. Carrasco continued to work his way through the Astros’ lineup — narrowly avoiding the tying run with Jose Ramirez’s bizarre double play — and preserving the shutout until his departure in the sixth, when he allowed Altuve and Bregman to reach on a single and walk to start the inning.

Cole, meanwhile, had recovered from his third-inning snafu and was still firing strikeouts right and left. According to MLB.com’s Andrew Simon, he finished his outing just one strikeout shy of tying Tom Seaver for most strikeouts (with no walks) in a postseason start. By the time A.J. Hinch swapped Cole for Ryan Pressly, the righty had tossed seven innings of three-hit, one-run, 12-strikeout ball.

With the bullpen fully in charge of the game, however, things began to go south for the Indians. Andrew Miller worked an 0-1 count against Gonzalez, then let slip the tying and go-ahead runs as Gonzalez dropped an RBI double into right field. In the seventh, with two outs and a one-run deficit, Miller’s 81.1-MPH slider was returned to center field on Alex Bregman’s solo home run. Gonzalez came back in the eighth with a base hit off of Brad Hand — while he was replaced by pinch-runner Myles Straw (who stole second and was subsequently left stranded there), it marked his fourth hit in as many at-bats, tying the franchise postseason record already established by Terry Puhl, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Correa, and Yuli Gurriel.

With Pressly and Roberto Osuna on the mound, the Indians were limited to nothing more than a pair of walks over the last two innings of the game. Yan Gomes drew a one-out walk in the eighth, but was still standing on first base at the end of the inning after Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor whiffed in back-to-back at-bats. In the ninth, Osuna retired Michael Brantley and Jose Ramirez on two groundouts before issuing a walk to Encarnacion, but the Indians’ hopes were just as quickly disappointed as Donaldson skied a routine fly ball out to right field to end the game.

Following the win, the Astros will try to eliminate the Indians from the postseason on Monday, when the series will shift to Progressive Field for Game 3. Southpaw Dallas Keuchel is currently scheduled to face off against right-hander Mike Clevinger at 1:30 PM EDT.

Phillies select active duty Navy aviator in MLB Rule 5 draft

philadelphia phillies
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SAN DIEGO — The Philadelphia Phillies took U.S. Navy aviator Noah Song in the Rule 5 draft Wednesday, hoping the former top pitching prospect can still be effective once he completes his military service.

There is no definitive date on when the 25-year-old Song might be able to join the Phillies.

Song was picked from the Boston Red Sox system in the draft for unprotected minor league players. Philadelphia put him on the military list while he continues his active duty and he won’t count on the 40-man roster, the pool from which major league teams can select players for the 26-man active roster.

Song impressed in his only pro season, making seven starts for Boston’s Class A Lowell affiliate in 2019, with a 1.06 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 17 innings. With a fastball clocked in the upper 90s mph, the right-hander dominated that year as a senior at the U.S. Naval Academy, going 11-1 with a 1.44 ERA and 161 strikeouts in 94 innings.

The Red Sox drafted Song in the fourth round – he likely would’ve gone much higher, but his impending military service caused teams to back off.

In November 2019, Defense Secretary Mark Esper signed a memo clearing the way for athletes at the nation’s military academies to delay their service commitments and play pro sports after graduation. Song’s request to have those new rules retroactively applied to his case was denied.

Song began school as a flight officer in the summer of 2020 and finished that phase last April. He started additional aviation training in May.

Song was among the 15 players, including three Boston pitchers, taken in the big league phase of the Rule 5 draft, which wasn’t held last year because of the MLB lockout.

Washington took righty Thad Ward from Boston’s Triple-A roster with the first pick. Baltimore took Red Sox minor league pitcher Andrew Politi with the ninth choice and the Phillies chose Song with the 11th selection.

Teams pay $100,000 to take players in the major league portion of the Rule 5 draft. The players must stay on the big league roster next season or go on waivers and, if unclaimed, be offered back to their original organization for $50,000.