Bullpen Falters, Offense is Scarce as Tribe Pushed to Brink; Astros 3, Indians 1
Bob Toth | On 06, Oct 2018
On Friday, the story was the Astros hitting more homers alone than the Indians had total hits. That lack of offense again reared its head for the Tribe as Cleveland was held to just three hits and lost a one-run lead in the sixth inning as Houston took a commanding 2-0 lead in the American League Division Series with a 3-1 win on Saturday.
The flat showing from an Indians roster relatively untested all season long proved discouraging again as the only runner to reach second base for Cleveland was Francisco Lindor during his third inning trot around the bases for the team’s only run of the day. The remaining four players to reach advanced no further than first base. Carlos Carrasco pitched well in his second career playoff game, but the bullpen behind him was unable to get out of a jam and a bad defensive play in right field led to a game-changing inning for the Astros in the bottom of the sixth.
Gerrit Cole pitched a gem for the Astros, racking up a dozen strikeouts against the team with the fewest Ks in baseball this season. He scattered three hits and did not walk a batter, but he found himself trailing in the third after retiring the first eight of nine batters faced. He allowed a single to start the second to Edwin Encarnacion, but struck out two of the next three to end the inning. He started the third with two more strikeouts, but Lindor found a 2-2 slider to his liking and drove it over the wall in right for a solo homer, his 39th of the season and first of this postseason, to put the Indians up, 1-0.
Unfortunately for the Indians, they got just one more base hit the rest of the game.
Carrasco retired the side in order in the first and stranded a runner at second after a one-out single by Marwin Gonzalez, who had himself a day at the plate. In the third, now with a lead, Carrasco had to work out of trouble after Josh Reddick singled to start the home half. A sacrifice by Martin Maldonado moved him to second and an infield single by George Springer moved Reddick to third. With the tough Jose Altuve at the plate, Carrasco got a grounder to Josh Donaldson at third. He fired to Jose Ramirez at second, and falling backwards after retiring the first out, he fired an off-balance strike to Yonder Alonso at first to get the speedy Altuve and prevent the tying run from scoring.
Cole struck out the side in the fourth and added two more to end the fifth after Cleveland’s final hit of the day, a one-out single to left-center by Melky Cabrera. Carrasco gave up a two-out single to Gonzalez in the fourth and a leadoff single to Tyler White in the fifth, but no harm came out of either base hit.
Cole struck out two more to end the sixth before the course of the game changed dramatically. Altuve reached on an infield single to Donaldson at third. Alex Bregman drew a walk before a liner to left by Yuli Gurriel. Andrew Miller was summoned from the bullpen to get Gonzalez, but the pesky hitter sent a shot to deep right. The ball was not fielded cleanly by Cabrera and instead ticked off of his glove and rolled to the wall. Altuve scored with ease and with the extra time afforded Bregman, he was able to score just ahead of the tag from Yan Gomes as Houston claimed a 2-1 lead. Miller was unable to retire anyone in his outing, as he walked Carlos Correa and then White intentionally after a wild pitch to load the bases. With the game dangling in the balance, Trevor Bauer came on for Terry Francona and got Evan Gattis to pop out to shallow right and then struck out Maldonado to leave the bags full.
The Astros added one more run with two outs in the seventh, as Bregman hit his second homer of the series with a clout high and deep to center off of Bauer.
Cole pitched the seventh, striking out his 12th batter of the day to start the inning. Ryan Pressly worked the first three batters of the eighth, walking Gomes with one out before striking out Jason Kipnis. Roberto Osuna struck out Lindor on four pitches to end that inning. In the ninth, he got two grounders to the infielders before walking Encarnacion. With the tying run at the plate in Donaldson, the former Blue Jay hit a fly ball off of his former Toronto teammate that was handled in center, securing the 3-1 win.
Cole put on a clinic in his start, lasting seven innings on the day. He struck out 12 in his dominant performance, allowing a run on three hits with no walks along the way. Osuna earned the four-out save, despite having to face Donaldson as the tying run in the ninth.
Carrasco took the loss for the Indians. He was charged with two runs on six hits with a walk and three strikeouts in five and one-third innings. Both runs that he was hit with came off of the double surrendered by Miller in the sixth. All three batters that Miller faced reached base safely, as he walked two after the two-run two-base hit.
“With a one-run lead, and with Gonzalez coming up the way he had swung the bat against [Carrasco] prior and Andrew’s history, I felt really good about it,” said Francona. “Didn’t work out the way we obviously planned.”
Bauer gave up a costly home run that was big insurance for the Astros. Brad Hand pitched the eighth, giving up a hit and a walk while striking out two.
Gonzalez delivered the big hit to plate a pair, but he also had nearly half of the knocks for Houston on the day. He went 4-for-4 and drove in a pair of runs, giving him five hits in seven at bats so far in the series. The Astros had nine total hits against Tribe pitching.
The series moves to Cleveland for Game 3 on Monday, with right-hander Mike Clevinger (13-8, 3.02 ERA) on the mound for the Indians against left-hander Dallas Keuchel (12-11, 3.74). The game is scheduled for an unfortunate 1:30 PM ET first pitch.
A win by the Tribe will force a fourth game, tentatively scheduled for Tuesday at 4:35 PM ET.
Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images