The Houston Astros are one victory away from returning to the American League Championship Series (ALCS) after they defeated the Cleveland Indians 3-1 in Game Two on Saturday.
Gerrit Cole launched a gem, delivering seven innings of three hits, a one-run career with 12 strikeouts and no walks. He is only the second pitcher in MLB history, after Tom Seaver, to record 12 strikeouts without giving a base to a hitter in a playoff game.
Marwin Gonzalez delivered the big hit with a double of two runs in the sixth inning of Andrew Miller and Alex Bregman added the sure shot with a solo shot to Trevor Bauer in the eighth.
The third game is scheduled for Monday in Cleveland.
Strength and strength
Entering the American League Division Series (ALDS), two things were very clear, the Astros hit many hitters and the Indians do not attack much. Nobody hit less than Cleveland in MLB this season (1,189 Ks) and no one hit more hitters than the Houston rotation (1,687 Ks).
Something had to give in this series. So far, what has failed is Cleveland's ability to avoid K. For a team that struck out a little more than seven times a game during the season (7.33), the Indians have been attacked 22 times during the first two games of the ALDS. Against Cole, they attacked the swing 12 times.
Houston was the best team in MLB with bats lost in the attack zone this year, so that makes sense, but one would think that the Indians would have been a bit better than they went through the first two games.
Here's a statement you will not hear much in the Major League postseason: the Astros will probably be happy to leave Houston and head to Cleveland. Yes, Houston played well in the first two games of the series, but the Astros have been a much better team on the road than at home this season.
Houston won 11 more games on the road this year than at home (57 to 46), but it's more than just wins. The Astros were a better hitting team on the road, as they scored 51 more runs away from home and also gave up 44 less. Houston's effectiveness was 2.87 on the road, instead of 3.34 at home.
Houston knows exactly what they're getting into, since they've been off the road in the postseason and have won in recent years. Houston won one game at Fenway Park to seal ALDS last season, another to tie the World Series in a game each at Dodger Stadium and then one to do it at Chavez Ravine. The Astros are not just a good road team, they are proven.