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

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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.

Renfroe slam helps Rays sweep young Blue Jays in 1st round

Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports
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The Tampa Bay Rays gathered in front of their dugout and posed for a celebratory team picture they’re hoping will not be the last they take this postseason.

Hunter Renfroe hit a grand slam and the top-seeded Rays won a postseason series for the first time in 12 years, overpowering the young Toronto Blue Jays 8-2 Wednesday to finish a two-game sweep of their wild-card matchup.

And with a roster featuring just a handful of players who have posted impressive resumes so far, the AL East champs believe they’re nowhere near finished.

“We’ve been confident since Day One. So if we put the our heads down and just do what we’ve been doing and prepare like we’ve been preparing, the sky’s the limit,” winning pitcher Tyler Glasnow said.

Said manager Kevin Cash: “We have very good players first and foremost.”

“I understand the back of the baseball card stuff and some of our guys are not as established,” he said. “What we do have, what makes it formidable is that the entire roster is used to help us win games. We do that consistently during the season and are definitely going to do it in the postseason.”

Renfroe launched the first playoff grand slam in franchise history during a six-run second inning. Glasnow kept Tampa Bay ahead from there, allowing two runs – on a pair of homers by Danny Jansen – in six innings.

Mike Zunino hit a two-run homer off Blue Jays ace Hyun Jin Ryu during Tampa Bay’s big inning. Manuel Margot and Randy Arozarena also drove in runs as the Rays advanced to the AL Division series against either the New York Yankees or Cleveland Indians.

The next round starts Monday at Petco Park in San Diego. Renfroe is plenty familiar with the stadium – he hit 85 home runs in the previous three years for the Padres before being traded to the Rays last December.

“The opportunity in front of us is where you want to be,” Cash said.

The Rays celebrated with some hugs and handshakes after the final out.

Glasnow, who walked one and struck out eight before a small gathering of family and friends who were allowed to attend the series at Tropicana Field.

Ryu was rocked for a season-high seven runs in 1 2/3 innings, the lefty’s shortest outing of the season for the wild-card Blue Jays.

It was a disappointing finish for Toronto, which overcame a slow start to make a surprising run to its first playoff berth since 2016 with a roster featuring 19 players without previous major league playoff experience, including Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette and Vladimir Guerrero Jr.

“Great season. I’m proud of my kids to make it to this point,” second-year Blue Jays manager Charlie Montoyo said.

“It’s obvious that the Rays are a pretty good team, that’s why they’re picked to go to the World Series,” he said. “In this series, we didn’t hit. We only scored three runs. That’s not enough to beat that team.”

The Rays, who won the opener 3-1 with a nice mix of pitching, defense and timely hitting, had dropped five consecutive multigame postseason series dating to the 2008 World Series.

A year ago, they beat Oakland in the AL wild-card game before losing to Houston in the division round – a five-game setback that nevertheless heightened team expectations heading into this season.

Ryu signed with the Blue Jays in free agency last winter after being an All-Star with the Los Angeles Dodgers and finishing second in NL Cy Young Award balloting in 2019.

The 33-year-old lefty had the AL’s fourth-best ERA this season. And, his career mark of .295 is third-best behind Clayton Kershaw (2.43) and Jacob deGrom (2.61) among active pitchers with at least 700 innings pitched.

Ryu’s impressive credentials meant nothing Wednesday.

The Rays began the first inning with three straight hits and scored their first run on Manuel Margot’s one-out single. Ryu escaped a bases-loaded jam by striking out Willy Adames, however his outing got worse the next inning.

After Zunino’s homer made it 3-0, Tampa Bay loaded the bases again on a double, walk and shortstop Bo Bichette’s second error of the day.

Renfroe, obtained from San Diego in an offseason trade that sent Tommy Pham to the Padres, hit his grand slam into the left field seats to extend the lead to 7-0.

“They were getting hits off all my pitches. I don’t think they were necessarily sitting on one or something like that,” Ryu said through a translator. “I just didn’t have a good game.”

“We have a lot to be proud of, we really do,” Jansen said. “We knocked on the door and next year we’re going to be ready to go through it.”

TRAINER’S ROOM

Blue Jays: 1B Rowdy Tellez, who had a pinch-hit single in Game 1 Tuesday, remained out of the starting lineup. He was placed on the 10-day IL on Sept. 9 with a right knee sprain and missed the rest of the regular season.

Rays: INF Yandy Diaz (right hamstring strain) started at third base, his first game since Aug. 31.

UP NEXT

The Rays will play in the AL division round for the sixth time in franchise history, with all of the appearances coming since 2008.

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