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.

Sox, Astros look to take a lead, Brewers look to take command in tonight’s LCS action

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The Red Sox and Astros felt each other out for Games 1 and 2 and now things shift to Houston for Game 3. Each team faces a challenge of sorts here, with the Astros facing a right-handed starter for the first time in the series — they have hit better against lefties on the season — and the Red Sox entering the game with some questions about their bullpen, particularly closer Craig Kimbrel. Also of note: each team has a big bit — Jose Altuve and J.D. Martinez — which has been cold thus far. Altuve has gone 1-for-8 in the first two games and Martinez is 0-for-7. Altuve is nursing a sore right knee and may be the DH this afternoon. Martinez, of course, will DH for Boston. It’ll be interesting to see if either one of ’em gets of the schneid.

In Los Angeles, the Brewers would take a commanding 3-1 lead with a victory tonight. As noted below, things are set up nicely for them from a pitching perspective, having basically everyone available in what will be, essentially, a bullpen game. The Dodgers have a traditional starter on the mound in Rich Hill, but since Walker Buehler went seven innings and Dave Roberts did not have to use his top relief arms, he’ll likely be calling down to the pen earlier than usual as well. Indeed, expect him to pull out all the stops he can to avoid falling into a 1-3 hole in this best-of-seven series.

Your viewing guide:

ALCS Game 3

Red Sox vs. Astros
Ballpark: Minute Maid Park
Time: 5:09 PM Eastern
TV: TBS
Pitchers: Nathan Eovaldi vs. Dallas Keuchel
Breakdown:

Eovaldi is coming off seven innings of one-run ball with five strikeouts and no walks in his Game 3 start against the Yankees in the ALDS. Earlier this year he faced the Astros when he was still with the Rays — as you probably heard by now, that didn’t go too well — but he’s been solid as a rock for Boston since the beginning of September, not allowing more than two runs in any start and blanking the opposition three times. Keuchel is working on seven days of rest since giving up two runs over five innings in his Game 3 of the ALDS. Sometimes people say guys with sinking stuff like his do worse with more rest but I feel like every time I’ve heard that for the past decade, a guy like him has either been just fine on extra rest or has gotten shelled on the allegedly good short rest they get. It’s mostly noise. So much small sample stuff this time of year is noise. Including the fact that Keuchel is 0-1 with a 9.15 ERA over four appearances against the Sox in his career. People say that stuff to have something to say. Like I just did.

NLCS Game 4

Brewers vs. Dodgers
Ballpark: Dodger Stadium
Time: 9:09 PM Eastern
TV: FS1
Pitchers: Gio Gonzalez vs. Rich Hill
Breakdown:

Gio Gonzalez will start the game, but as was the case in Game 1 when Gonzalez pitched just two innings, look for him to be an opener here once again. In Game 1 Craig Counsell used seven pitchers, with Brandon Woodruff going two innings and Josh Hader going three. Hader pitched yesterday but it was only two-thirds of an inning in which he only threw eight pitches, so expect to see him once again. The Dodgers, blanked yesterday, will need to show that they can do something against the Brewers’ best or this thing isn’t going back to Milwaukee for a Game 6 or 7. As for their starter, Rich Hill hasn’t pitched in eight days, last going four and a third against the Braves in the NLDS, allowing two runs. He’ll be pitching to Austin Barnes after Yasmani Grandal’s boo-inspiring performance in the postseason thus far sends him to the pine.