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.