George Springer, Marwin Gonzalez Lead Astros Over Indians to Advance to ALCS

The Astros overwhelmed the Indians' bullpen to advance to the ALCS for the second consecutive season.
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Behind two homers from George Springer and some horrendous defense from Trevor Bauer, the Astros exploded for ten runs over the final three innings to defeat the Indians 11–3 and end Cleveland’s season. Houston will advance to the ALCS to play the winner of the Boston-New York series.

1. It's a day Trevor Bauer won't forget

Before suffering an ankle injury that kept him out for six weeks, Trevor Bauer was squarely in the race for the AL Cy Young award. By the time he returned to the Indians at the end of September, Bauer made two starts, but manager Terry Francona to use him as a long reliever while Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and Mike Clevinger would start. In Game 2, Francona went to Andrew Miller before Bauer. Miller promptly surrendered a two-run double to Marwin Gonzalez that was the key hit in the Astros’ 3–1 win.

On Monday, Francona went to Bauer with a 2–1 lead in the top of the seventh inning. What transpired was a most painful sequence for a fan base accustomed to heartbreak. After Tony Kemp singled, an errant pickoff throw from Bauer sent Kemp to second, who advanced to third on a swinging bunt single from George Springer. Jose Altuve fielder’s choice scored Kemp to tie the game, but Bauer overthrew an Alex Bregman comebacker that should have been a 1-6-3 double play and end the inning at 2–2.

When the Indians should have recorded outs two and three, they got none instead. It was Bauer’s second throwing error of the inning and the third from a Cleveland pitcher on the afternoon—the first time a playoff team’s pitchers committed three errors in a game. After walking Yulieski Gurriel, Bauer threw what would have been ball four to Marwin Gonzalez. Somehow, Gonzalez hacked at a pitch near his eyes and drove a two-run double down the leftfield line to score Altuve and Bregman, the two runners that would have been erased by the double play that Bauer flubbed. Relievers Andrew Miller and Cody Allen helped close the inning, but an inning that should have ended in about 10 minutes took 33 to complete. It was a two-run deficit that felt like eight. Soon, it would be.

Like they do to most teams, the Astros seized the momentum from the top of the seventh to pummel the remains of the Cleveland bullpen in the top of the eighth. Springer hit his second homer of the game off of Allen to extend the lead to 5-2. Allen would go onto load the bases and hand the ball to midseason acquisition Brad Hand, who allowed another RBI single to Gonzalez and eventually a three-run homer to the slumping Carlos Correa. It was 10–2 by the end of the top of the eighth, and the Astros re-established just how terrifying they are to face.

2. George Springer is your new Mr. October

One year after winning World Series MVP, George Springer continued his torrid postseason play with a two-homer performance on Monday afternoon. First, Springer sent a flat breaking ball from Mike Clevinger 413 feet into leftfield for his second home run of the series to tie the game 1–1.

After Houston took a 4–2 lead in the top of the seventh, Springer sent a Cody Allen fastball 399 feet to the other part of the ballpark to extend the lead to three runs and further quiet a Progressive Field crowd that suffered through losing the lead in the prior inning.

Springer now has eight homers in his last nine postseason games and 10 in 27 career postseason games to go with a 57% extra-base hit rate. 

3. The Indians bullpen was always going to be a problem

Francona is one of the finest bullpen operators in the game, but the struggles of Andrew Miller and Cody Allen—two of their best relievers over the past two seasons—forced the veteran manager to put Bauer in an unfamiliar position in Games 2 and 3. Hand and fellow midseason acquisiton Adam Cimber were fine (ERAs of 2.28 and 4.06 respectively), but not trusted with amny high-leverage at-bats. The result of it all? The bullpen allowed 13 earned runs in 10 innings. This wasn't a team that was going to get to the World Series.