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.

Yankees trade Sonny Gray to the Reds

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The deal was much talked about all weekend and now the deal is done: The Cincinnati Reds gave acquired starter Sonny Gray and lefty Reiver Sanmartin from the Yankees in exchange for second base prospect Shed Long and a 2019 competitive balance pick.

The key to making the deal happen: Gray agreeing to a a three-year, $30.5 million contract extension. The Reds will likewise hold a $12 million club option for 2023. The deal had been struck and a window granted through close of business today to get Gray to agree to the extension and, obviously, he has.

The Reds will get a pitcher coming off of a bad season in which he posted a disappointing 4.90 ERA in 23 starts and seven relief appearances. He was hammered particularly hard in Yankee Stadium but pitched better on the road. Great American Ballpark is not a great pitcher’s park itself but any change of scenery would be nice for Gray, who had become much unwanted and unloved in New York. In Cincinnati he has the assurance of a spot in the rotation and, even better for him, he will be reunited with his college pitching coach, Derek Johnson, who joined new manager David Bell’s Reds staff earlier this offseason. If he bounces back even a little bit, the Reds will have a useful starter at a below market price for four years. If he doesn’t, well, they haven’t exactly gone bankrupt taking the chance.

The Reds will also get Reiver Sanmartin, 22, who started in the Rangers system before being traded to the Yankees. He’s a soft-tosser who figures to be a reliever if he makes the big leagues. He played at four different levels last season, with one game at Double-A and the rest below that, posting a composite 2.80 ERA in 10 starts and 13 overall appearances while striking out 7.8 batters per nine.

The Yankees will get Shed Long, who is ranked as the Reds’ seventh best prospect. The 23-year old second baseman hit .261/.353/.412 at Double-A in 2018 and has hit very close to that overall line for his entire six-year minor league career. He strikes out a bit and may not stick at second base long term, shifting to a corner outfield slot perhaps, but he’s a legitimate prospect.

The Reds get another starter with some upside. The Yankees get rid of a problem and gain a prospect and a draft pick. Sonny Gray gets some job and financial security at a time when it is not at all clear what his future holds. Not a bad baseball trade.

UPDATE: Welp, the Yankees don’t have a prospect anymore. They just traded long to the Mariners for outfielder Josh Stowers. Stowers was a second-round pick in last year’s draft. He’s 21 and batted .260/.380/.410 with five homers and 20 steals over 58 games in Short-Season ball in 2018. He’s ranked by MLB.com as the Mariners’ No. 10 prospect, but now he’s New York bound.