Astros take 2-0 ALDS lead with Gerrit Cole gem

Gerrit Cole
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The Astros delivered a knockout performance against the Rays on Saturday, claiming a 2-0 lead in the American League Division Series after defeating their rivals 3-1. A series-clinching win could come as soon as Monday’s Game 3.

Gerrit Cole lead Houston’s star-studded lineup with one of the best postseason performances of his career to date. He twirled 7 2/3 scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and striking out 15 of 27 batters as the Rays tried — and failed — to get even a single run across the plate. Per MLB Stats, he’s now struck out at least 10 batters per start in 10 consecutive outings (dating back through August 7), and his 15 strikeouts hold up as a new franchise postseason record.

Cole was matched by Rays’ starter and defending AL Cy Young winner Blake Snell, who tossed three scoreless innings of his own before giving up a no-doubter to Alex Bregman in the bottom of the fourth. He finished his first career postseason start with 3 1/3 frames of four-hit, one-run, five-strikeout ball.

With Cole dealing and Tampa Bay’s bullpen a close eye on things, the Astros didn’t find many opportunities to build up their lead. They got another break in the bottom of the seventh; with runners on second and third and one out, Martín Maldonado snagged a cutter from Emilio Pagán and returned it to left field for an RBI single.

Things got dicey in the eighth. Cole issued back-to-back strikeouts to Brandon Lowe and Travis d'Arnaud, but started to make the Astros nervous after Kevin Kiermaier lashed a double to right field, followed by a seven-pitch walk to Willy Adames. With 118 pitches under his belt, Cole handed the ball to Roberto Osuna, who completed the inning with a final, decisive strikeout against Yandy Díaz.

The Astros fared little better in the ninth. Osuna led off the inning with two hits to Austin Meadows and Tommy Pham; one wild pitch and an eight-pitch walk later, the Rays had the bases loaded with no outs. Avisaíl García worked a full count against Osuna, then plated the Rays’ first run of the night on a force play. Luckily for the Astros, however, they escaped with a final groundout from Kiermaier, preserving their two-run lead — and the win.

If the Astros intend to go for the sweep, they’ll need to do so in Florida. The Rays are set to host Game 3 on Monday afternoon, with a potential Game 4 slated for Tuesday. Should the ALDS get pushed out to a full five games, the series tie-breaker will return to Houston for Game 5.

Judge still at 61 HRs, Severino 7 no-hit innings for Yanks

New York Yankees v Texas Rangers
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ARLINGTON, Texas – While Aaron Judge is down to three more games to try to get his 62nd home run for the New York Yankees, Luis Severino was nearly perfect in a promising final start before the playoffs.

Severino faced the minimum 21 batters with one walk while pitching seven no-hit innings, in only his third start since missing two months with a strained right lat, before the Texas Rangers broke through against New York’s bullpen in the Yankees’ 3-1 win on Monday night.

Judge has gone without a homer in four games, and his only one in the last 12 was No. 61 on Wednesday in Toronto that tied Roger Maris’ American League record. He went 1 for 4 with an infield single against Texas, and is 2 for 12 with five walks and a hit by pitch since that last long ball.

The Yankees and Rangers play a day-night doubleheader Tuesday before closing the regular season Wednesday.

Manager Aaron Boone said after the game that he hadn’t spoken yet with Judge about whether he would play both games Tuesday.

“I’m going to kind of get with him, figure out what we want to do,” Boone said.

Boone had a one-sided conversation with Severino (7-3). The manager wasn’t going to push him.

Severino wanted to go back out and said he was “1,000%” positive he could have finished the no-hitter. But he understood why Boone didn’t give in.

“I think it was a good decision,” Severino said. “I don’t want to go out there and hurt myself and not be good for the postseason. We’re looking for the bigger picture.”

Severino threw 63 of 94 pitches for strikes for the AL East champions.

“It’s still just a decision that just sucks to happen because he was very efficient,” Boone said. “To have to be the one that shuts that down is not fun, but one you’ve got to do.”

Judge has a chance to become the first AL Triple Crown winner since Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012. He leads the AL with 130 RBIs trails Minnesota’s Luis Arraez .315 to 311 in the batting race.

With many in the crowd of 35,906 wearing Yankees jerseys and chanting “M-V-P!, M-V-P!” when Judge batted, his hit came on a checked-swing leading off the sixth when he was jammed, along with a groundout, a strikeout and a liner into a double play.

“We did a nice job of keeping him at bay,” Rangers interim manager Tony Beasley said. “He didn’t hurt us at all. I thought overall we threw the ball well.”

Severino, hoping for a postseason rotation spot, struck out seven and averaged 97.9 mph for 47 fastballs, reaching a top velocity of 100.3 mph. He threw 17 changeups, 16 sliders, 11 sinkers and three cutters.

“I was feeling good from the beginning,” Severino said. “The fastball was electric today, it was spot-on.”

Texas’ only runner off him was Josh Smith, who walked in the third and was immediately erased when No. 9 batter Bubba Thompson grounded into an inning-ending double play.

“Pretty certain he would have got that no-hitter … the fastball had, like, crazy life today,” said catcher Kyle Higashioka, drawing comparisons to Corey Kluber‘s no-hitter he caught at Texas in 2021, about six weeks after San Diego’s Joe Musgrove also no-hit the Rangers there.

Castro, in his first appearance since July 10 after recovering from a strained shoulder, struck out Adolis Garcia to open the eighth. Rookie third baseman Josh Jung, who is hitting just .195, lined a single over shortstop Isiah Kiner-Falefa. Jonah Heim followed with another solid single before Kole Calhoun‘s RBI groundout.

Marwin Gonzalez and Giancarlo Stanton homered in the eighth off just-in reliever Jonathan Hernandez. Stanton hit a 457-foot drive and reached 30 homers for the seventh time. Judge struck out between those long balls.

Scott Effross worked the ninth for his his third save with the Yankees.

Martin Perez (12-8) allowed only one run over six innings while give up five hits and walking five. The Rangers turned five of their club record-tying six double plays behind the All-Star left-hander.

ONLY SECOND TIME

The roof was open at Globe Life Field, where New York had played only once before – a four-game series last year when Judge had 14 at-bats and a walk without going deep. But the slugger did hit the final homer in the Rangers’ former stadium across the street when the Yankees were the opponent for the last game played there in 2019.

OPENING SIX MONTHS LATER

The opener of the four-game series was the 159th game of the season for both teams. It was initially supposed be the season opener six months ago before MLB’s 99-day offseason lockout delayed spring training and postponed the first week of the regular season.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Yankees: 2B Gleyber Torres was a late scratch from the starting lineup because of flu-like symptoms. … Boone said he had no update on reliever Ron Marinaccio, who exited Sunday after 12 pitches because of a sore right shin. Marinaccio did have an MRI. … Reliver Clay Holmes (rotator cuff inflammation) is scheduled to start throwing Tuesday to build up for the playoffs. … DJ LeMahieu went 1 for 3 in his third game in four days since missing three weeks because of an inflamed right second toe.

Rangers: Rookie LHP Cole Ragans (0-3 in his first nine big league starts this season) was placed on the injured list with a left calf strain.

UP NEXT

RHP Jameson Taillon (14-5, 3.83 ERA) is set to pitch the opener for the Yankees, with RHP Gerrit Cole (13-7, 3.51) in the nightcap. Texas will go with RHP Jon Gray (7-7, 3.93) for the day game, and a bullpen game for Game 2.