The World Champion Houston Astros are one game away from their second straight ALDS victory. On the surface, probably to most outsiders, this team looks very similar to the one that took down the LA Dodgers in seven games last Fall. But it is a different team in many ways, and it has gotten here by a different path.
Compared to last year’s team, which stood in comparison to some of the best slugging teams ever, yes, 27 Yankees, yes, Big Red Machine, this is a pitching first outfit.
Not least of all because of the off-season acquisition of Gerrit Cole, who gives the Astros, along with late season 2017 acquisition Justin Verlander, a 1-2 starting pitching combo for the ages. Yes, Spahn and Sain, yes, Koufax and Drysdale, yes Johnson and Shilling, yes, whatever two you want to pick from the 90’s Braves, Kershaw, Greinke. Yea, that good. (Commenters, leave your favorite tandems below) And when you only need to win 3 games to win a series, having a couple like that makes beating the Astros in the ALDS very daunting indeed.
And on top of that the Astros go into the playoffs no longer praying that one of their normal relievers won’t meltdown and ruin a lead after the bats have seemingly blown the game open. There are some new, lock down arms out there in the pen. The Astros this year can win a pitcher’s duel, even if the starter must depart after six or seven innings.
Last night Verlander and crew held the potent Indians offense to two runs. Tonight Cole and the gang held them to one. In seven innings he held the Indians to three hits and no walks. No walks and twelve strikeouts, all swing and miss variety. He threw 98 pitches, 70 strikes, and induced a remarkable 23 whiffs. His game score was 79. About 50 points higher that Corey Kluber last night and 29 points higher than his worthy opponent tonight, Carlos Carrasco. His only mistake, a flatlining slider to Francisco Lindor in the third which he sent to deep right field.
When Cole was finished, a couple more new kids in town, Ryan Pressly and Roberto Osuna, completed Cole’s work, holding the Indians scoreless in the eighth and ninth innings, Osuna getting the save.
Much like last night, the Astros offense was late to the game, but eventually gave enough support to give Cole only his second career post season win. The two offensive heroes that carried the team tonight were Marwin Gonzalez and Alex Bregman, who together accounted for more than half of the team’s nine hits, all three RBI, and two of the three runs scored.
Marwin provided the big, clutch, go ahead run in the seventh, with a two run double which scored Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman, who hustled in from first just safe. Gonzalez was 4 for 4 tonight. See here.
Alex Bregman added an insurance run in the seventh with a 396 foot homer over his off-season friend, and every Astros fan’s favorite Indian, Tyler Bauer. That’s his second in two games. See here.
Bregs is hitting .500 in the series thus far, Gonzalez .714, Tyler White .600 and Josh Reddick .500. With minimal production from last year’s superstar Carlos Correa so far, the Astros will need production from unexpected sources like Reddick and White if they expect to advance beyond the ALCS.
But tonight the Astros are 2-0 in the ALDS and clearly overwhelming favorites at this point to advance and face whoever survives the Yankees, Red Sox gladiator contest.
Next Game is 12:30 PM CDT, Monday, Oct 8. Yes I said 12:30. These are the World f.....ing Champions, damn it. The Astros get no respect.
Dallas Keuchel faces Mike Clevinger
Box score and videos here.