- Gerrit Cole supressed the Indians' offense for seven innings, striking out 12 and allowing the only three hits Cleveland would get all game.
After Houston came roaring out on top in Friday’s Game 1, Cleveland took an early lead in Saturday’s Game 2 on a Francisco Lindor solo shot in the third inning. But Cleveland’s bullpen couldn’t handle it, and Houston soon ran back in front by capitalizing on a disastrous outing from reliever Andrew Miller. Here are three thoughts on Houston’s 3-1 victory, which puts them within one game of the ALCS:
Gerrit Cole Dominates
Gerrit Cole’s season could’ve been a Cy Young lock, had it happened in any other year but this one. With a 2.88 ERA, he struck out more than a third of opposing batters… and still wasn’t on top of most leaderboards, thanks to Justin Verlander and Blake Snell and Corey Kluber and Chris Sale. But still! He emerged as an elite talent this season, and Houston’s starting pitcher demonstrated how on Saturday.
In seven innings of work, Cole struck out 12. He allowed just three hits and no walks. His only mistake was the third-inning home run to Lindor; apart from that, he was remarkably close to perfect. Cleveland’s bats just couldn’t do anything with him.
Cleveland's Bullpen Breakdown
The Indians’ bullpen has been their most serious problem—a garbage fire that was somewhat better controlled in the second half, but one that’s never completely stopped burning. It brought about the team’s downfall in Game 2.
Manager Terry Francona was quick to yank Carlos Carrasco, pulling him with one out in the sixth inning as his pitch count sat at 77. Carrasco left two runners on, but neither had seemed like a sign of collapse for the starting pitcher. The first, José Altuve, came aboard on an infield single that had seemed likely to roll foul when it was prematurely cut off by third baseman Josh Donaldson. The second, Alex Bregman, walked in a full count. Still, Francona decided that it was time to call to the ‘pen, opting for Andrew Miller.
Miller was injured for a solid chunk of this season, and he hadn’t looked quite like himself even when healthy. He’d especially struggled lately, allowing seven runs and twelve hits in his last eight appearances. He didn’t do anything to break that trend on Saturday. His performance, in order: a two-run double, a four-pitch walk, a wild pitch, an intentional walk, a call to the ‘pen. Cleveland’s lead was gone, Miller hadn’t recorded a single out, and Francona was going with Trevor Bauer. Making an appearance on back-to-back days is rare for Bauer, a career starter temporarily converted to relief for the postseason. While he made it through the sixth inning without incident, he couldn’t say the same of the seventh. A Bregman home run sealed Bauer’s, and Cleveland’s, fate. Houston went ahead 3-1 and never looked back.
Bregman Continues Dominance of Postseason Pitching
Alex Bregman followed up his strong performance from Game 1—2-for-3 with a home run—by putting the nail in Cleveland’s coffin for Game 2, with his solo shot in the seventh inning off Bauer.
Bauer allowed hardly any home runs this year, just nine in 175 IP. His HR/9 was lower than that of any qualified starting pitcher. He threw 407 sliders, more than any other pitch besides his fastball, and he allowed a home run from it just twice. Slider #408 wasn’t so lucky. Bauer left the pitch hanging—where it had to contend with Bregman, who hit 31 home runs this season with a .926 OPS.
No one did more at the plate for the 2018 Astros than Bregman, who outperformed even elite teammates like Altuve and George Springer. With one more win, he’ll get a chance to keep it going in the ALCS.