Gerrit Cole
Getty Images

Astros take 2-0 ALDS lead with Gerrit Cole gem

7 Comments

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.

Astros claim AL pennant with walk-off win against the Yankees

Astros
AP Images
10 Comments

Following a rollercoaster performance on Saturday, the Astros clinched the American League Championship Series with a decisive 6-4 walk-off win against the Yankees, claiming their second AL pennant and earning a well-deserved entrance to the World Series.

Both clubs decided to preserve possible Game 7 starters Luis Severino and Gerrit Cole, electing to have a “bullpen day” for a pivotal Game 6. Chad Green took the mound for the Yankees, tossing one inning before handing the ball off to a long line of relievers, while Brad Peacock‘s rare playoff start was capped at 1 2/3 innings. According to ESPN Stats & Info, that made it the first postseason game since 1999 in which neither starting pitcher lasted two innings or longer.

All told, the two clubs utilized a total of 13 pitchers to make it through nine innings. The Astros lost Ryan Pressly to a worrisome knee injury in the third, but were able to lean on José Urquidy for 2 2/3 innings of one-run, five-strikeout ball. Although Yankees’ bullpen fought back in every inning, they had considerable difficulty recovering from Yuli Gurriel‘s three-run homer off of Green in the bottom of the first:

Still, New York managed to get in a couple of knocks as well: first, with Gary Sanchez‘s RBI single in the second inning, then with Gio Urshela‘s 395-foot blast in the fourth inning — the second of his postseason career to date. That wasn’t enough to close the gap, however, and Alex Bregman‘s productive groundout in the sixth helped cushion the Astros’ lead as they headed toward the final few innings of the series.

That lead started to look a little shaky in the ninth. Only three outs away from a ticket to the World Series, Houston closer Roberto Osuna gave up a leadoff single to Urshela, which was quickly followed by a jaw-dropping, full-count, game-tying two-run shot from DJ LeMahieu that barely cleared the right field fence.

With the threat of extra innings and a potential loss looming, the Astros engineered a last-minute rally to regain the lead and stake their claim for the pennant. With two outs and no runners on, George Springer took a five-pitch walk from Aroldis Chapman. In the next at-bat, Houston pinned their hopes on José Altuve — and he didn’t disappoint, lifting a 2-1 slider out to left field for a 406-foot, two-RBI homer that confirmed the Astros’ series win.

The 2019 World Series will mark the third Fall Classic appearance for the Astros and the first for the Nationals. It all begins on Tuesday night.