Gerrit Cole throws a masterful start to lift Astros over Rays

Astros playoff report presented by APG&E: Astros now lead ALDS 2-0 after 3-1 win over Rays

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.

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.

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.

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans loss rests squarely on this decision

Another tough loss for the Texans. Photo by Getty Images.

There are times in which you gamble and it pays off. Then there are times in which you gamble and lose badly. Today was definitely the latter. The Texans fell to the Titans 42-36 in an overtime thriller. The loss rests squarely on the head of interim head coach Romeo Crennel and his ill-timed gambling at the end of the game.

It started with the gamble to go for it on 4th&1 on the Titans' 35-yard line with 4:37 left in the game. That move said two things: A) we're on the road at 1-4 against the 4-0 division leader up by one point so let's try to end this, or B) I don't trust our kicker to make a 53-yard field goal. They converted because David Johnson is good for slamming into the backs of the offensive line for at least a yard or three. The next gamble came eight plays later. It was 4th & Goal from the 1-yard line. The play call was a pass. Deshaun Watson found Randall Cobb after scrambling to extend the play and putting the ball in a tight window on the sideline where only Cobb could catch it. Here's where I started to have a problem with the gambling.

That touchdown made it 36-29 in favor of the Texans. Up by seven with less than two minutes left in the game, the "right" call would be to kick the extra point to potentially go up by eight. That forces the opposition to have to score a touchdown and convert a two point conversion in order to tie the game. Alas...Crennel gambled by trying to force things, went for two, and came up short. Kenny Rogers once said: You've got to know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold 'em. Know when to walk away. Know when to run.

The porous defense, however, gave up the game tying touchdown and extra point with four seconds left to send the game into overtime. From there, the Titans got the ball in overtime and drove down the field for the game winning score. A team that played a game on Tuesday evening bullied a team on Sunday at noon. Let that sink in. Sure, Derrick Henry is a linebacker playing running back, but the amount of yards you gave up to him was unacceptable.

Not kicking that extra point to go up by eight with less than two minutes left (1:50 to be exact) was the key coaching move that I feel cost them the game. There's no coming back from blunders like that when you're now 1-5 and would need to go at least 8-2 with tons of help down the stretch to have an outside shot at the newly created seventh spot in the playoffs. You had the division leader down and were in position to get a division win to go to 2-4. Instead, you're now in position to help the Dolphins continue to improve their franchise from the boneheaded decisions Bill O'Brien made before his exit. Crennel and staff coached a good game, until the end when it mattered most. With an extra playoff spot available, they still have an outside shot to make it, but it'll be difficult.

This city and fanbase deserve better. One day, they'll get it and get a winner. Until then unfortunately, they'll have to settle for purgatory, disappointment, and mediocrity. Hold tight. I see good things coming one day Houston football fans.

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