Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images
After doing so much of the regular season, Gerrit Cole once again played his part in "whatever you can do, I can do better" in the friendly competition between Justin Verlander. Cole's dominant night on the mound, with a couple of runs behind him, lifted the Astros over the Rays to take a 2-0 advantage in the ALDS before the series shifts to Tropicana Field. Here is our recap of the game:
Final Score: Astros 3, Rays 1.
Series: HOU leads 2-0.
Winning Pitcher: Gerrit Cole.
Losing Pitcher: Blake Snell.
Cole and Snell duel early, but Bregman comes out on top
Like Verlander and Glasnow in Game 1, both the Astros and Rays had trouble with the opposing starter through the first few innings in Game 2. Gerrit Cole and Blake Snell finished the first three innings of the game scoreless, with Cole allowing just one hit and Snell three.
Alex Bregman was able to break the scoreless tie in the bottom of the fourth, leading off the inning by winning a seven-pitch battle against Snell with a solo home run to put Houston ahead 1-0. Snell would face one more batter before being pulled after 3.1 innings and starting the night for Tampa Bay's bullpen.
41 HR in the regular season.
First this #postseason. pic.twitter.com/j1OAXKhkW7
— MLB (@MLB) October 6, 2019
Gerrit Cole doing Gerrit Cole things
While Snell had his night come to a close early, Cole was putting together another incredibly dominant outing on the mound. He allowed just one hit over the first four innings before getting the 1-0 lead off of Bregman's home run, then held on to the one-run lead with inning after inning of incredible pitching.
Sorry, how fast? In what inning? pic.twitter.com/Bd0EMD90zc
— MLB (@MLB) October 6, 2019
He would later get another run behind him and came to the mound for the top of the eighth with a 2-0 lead. Cole would get two outs into that inning before two baserunners and his pitch count would prompt A.J. Hinch to make a move to closer Roberto Osuna. When it was all said and done, Cole had finished seven and two-thirds shutout innings with 15 strikeouts, a new franchise record in a postseason game. His final line: 7.2 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 15K.
Osuna makes it stressful, but Houston takes 2-0 series lead
After coming up disappointingly empty after putting runners on first and third with no outs in the fifth inning, the Astros received another chance in the bottom of the seventh. An error put Yuli Gurriel on first to lead off the inning, and then he moved to third on a double by Carlos Correa. After an out, Martin Maldonado came through with an RBI-single blooped into the outfield to extend the lead to 2-0.
With Cole's terrific night coming to an end two outs into the eighth inning, Houston looked to Roberto Osuna to get a four-out save. He got a three-pitch strikeout to end the top of the eighth, erasing the two runners put on by Cole. In the bottom of the eighth, the Astros added one more insurance run on an RBI-single by Carlos Correa, extending the lead to 3-0.
Roberto Osuna then returned in the ninth to finish the save. He would be unsuccessful, loading the bases with no outs after two singles and a walk to start the inning. An RBI-groundout cut the lead to 3-1 and left runners on the corners with one out before Osuna would walk the bases loaded again. That would do it for Osuna, with Will Harris coming in to replace him to try and get the final two outs.
Harris would control the situation well, striking out his first batter then getting a groundout to finish the game. The win put the Astros up 2-0 in the series, needing just one win out of the next three games to advance to the ALCS for the third straight season.
Up Next: Houston and Tampa Bay will have a day off Sunday to travel to St. Petersburg for ALDS Game 3 on Monday. The game will get underway at 12:05 PM Central, and the expected pitching matchup is Zack Greinke (18-5, 2.93 ERA in the regular season) for the Astros going against former-Astro Charlie Morton (16-6, 3.05 ERA in the regular season) for the Rays.
The Astros playoff report is presented by APG&E.
It's a new year for the Houston Astros as they return to action for their first game of the spring against the Washington Nationals on Saturday.
Every season we see some adjustments to the roster which means we also see some changes in leadership. As Astros fans, we're all aware of Alex Bregman and Kyle Tucker's contract situations. Breggy could be gone after the season, and Tucker could follow one year later.
Which means it's pretty clear who the leaders of the team will be for the foreseeable future. Not only are these guys two of the best players on the club, but they're also under contract for several more years. In Altuve's case, through the 2029 season. For Yordan, he won't sniff free agency until 2029.
While these guys aren't your typical vocal leaders, they are both highly respected and lead by example. Leadership is something that's front of mind for Yordan this season, according to The Athletic's Chandler Rome.
On Yordan Alvarez the leader, one of two constants in a clubhouse bracing for change and the responsibility he wants to shoulder as a result - https://t.co/sZGlI5taBQ
— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) February 21, 2024
Another way to be a leader is to do everything you can to be available for your team. Alvarez changed his diet in the offseason hoping it will help him stay healthy this year.
Manager Joe Espada said Alvarez is fully healthy and he plans on playing him earlier than normal this spring.
Currently, Yordan is trending down in games played for three straight seasons. But he's such a great player that he needs fewer games to put up massive numbers.
He finished 3rd in MVP voting in 2022, and he only played in 135 games out of a possible 162.
So with that in mind, how many games does Yordan need to play this year to win an MVP?
Plus, who's going to protect him in the lineup? With new manager Joe Espada in place, it's hard to know what the lineup will look like.
One thing we do know, Espada immediately named Josh Hader his closer when spring training began. He also told the media that he wants Jeremy Pena to know where he's going to hit every day when he comes to the ballpark.
Espada values players knowing their roles, and getting comfortable in their routines. Something very different from last season when manager Dusty Baker moved Pena all over the lineup throughout the season.
So what does all this mean for Yordan?
Be sure to watch the video above as we break it all down!
Catch Stone Cold 'Stros (an Astros podcast) every Monday on SportsMapHouston's YouTube channel.