Cole dominates on the mound, Gonzalez at the plate to lift Astros over Indians 3-1; Houston leads ALDS 2-0

Gerrit Cole had 12 strikeouts in seven powerful innings. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Gerrit Cole dominated the Indians on Saturday afternoon, buying the Astros offense some time to come through with some run support later in the game to edge out the Indians 3-1 and take a commanding 2-0 lead in the ALDS. 

Cole was absolutely on fire in Saturday's game, going 7 innings during which he struck out an incredible 12 batters, allowed just 1 run on a solo home run, and walked none. Marwin Gonzalez played the hero when he hit the two-run go-ahead double in the sixth, the highlight of his 4-for-4 day at the plate, and Alex Bregman hit his second home run in as many games to extend the lead late.

Gerrit Cole got the nod for Game 2, taking the mound to start the game in the top of the first. He made it a quick inning after getting a couple of fly outs and groundout on just seven pitches. The top of Houston's lineup was up in the bottom of the inning to face Carlos Carrasco, but he too made it a quick inning to keep the scoreboard full of zeros. 

Edwin Encarnacion led the second inning off with a groundball single that made it just past a diving Yuli Gurriel into right field. Cole answered that with back-to-back strikeouts, then a groundout to end the half-inning. Gonzalez gave Houston their first hit of the day with a one-out single in the bottom of the inning but would get left stranded to leave it a scoreless game.

After getting two strikeouts to start the top of the third, Cole left a breaking ball in the middle of the zone for Francisco Lindor who hammered it for a solo home run to put the Indians up 1-0. Josh Reddick led the bottom of the inning off with a single, moved to second on a sacrifice bunt, then to third on an infield single by George Springer. That brought up Jose Altuve with runners on the corners and one out, though the Astros would come out empty-handed after Altuve grounded into a double play to end the inning. 

Despite the solo homer the inning before, Cole kept throwing the heat in the fourth inning, striking out the side to bring his total up to seven in the game. Gonzalez got his second hit in as many at-bats in the bottom of the inning, but would once again be left stranded, keeping the game at a 1-0 Indians advantage. 

In the fifth, Cole worked around a one-out single in the top of the inning by striking out two more batters. Tyler White gave the Astros another baserunner by leading off the bottom of the inning with a single but would be forced out at second after Reddick grounded into a fielder's choice, followed by a strikeout and groundout to end the inning.

Cole continued to deal in the top of the sixth, racking up two more strikeouts in another 1-2-3 inning. Altuve led off the bottom of the inning by bouncing a ball in front of the plate that dribbled down the third base line. He fell going out of the box, but after a bad throw to first was able to make it an infield single, though would come up limping at the end of the play, yet stayed on first to run. Alex Bregman was next and worked a walk, putting runners on first and second with no outs. After a hard-hit fly out by Gurriel for the first out, the Indians made the call to their bullpen to end Carrasco's day and bring in Andrew Miller to face Gonzalez. Gonzalez took the right side of the plate to face Miller and hit a perfectly-placed opposite-field double to score Altuve and Bregman to give Houston its first lead, 2-1. Miller proceeded to walk Carlos Correa, then White, loading the bases and bringing in another reliever, Trevor Bauer. Evan Gattis came in to pinch-hit for Reddick but hit a shallow pop out for the second out, then Martin Maldonado struck out to leave the bases juiced. 

In the top of the seventh, Cole started the inning looking to try and keep things going with 89 pitches. He would get a strikeout and two more quick outs to make it a 9-pitch inning to maintain the 2-1 lead and put him in line for a great win. Bauer was back out for the Indians in the bottom of the inning, and after getting the first two outs felt the power of Bregman who took him deep to extend the lead to 3-1. 

With Cole's terrific night done, the Astros looked to Ryan Pressly to hold the lead in the top of the eighth. Pressly would issue a one-out walk before getting a strikeout, but with the tying run coming to the plate in Francisco Lindor, A.J. Hinch made the call to bring in Roberto Osuna to try and get the four-out save. Osuna would get Lindor swinging to put them three outs away from the win. Brad Hand was next out of Cleveland's bullpen in the bottom of the eighth but was met by Gonzalez who made it a 4-for-4 day with a leadoff single before being pinch-run for by Myles Straw. Straw would move to second after an intentional walk to Tyler White with one out, but they'd both be stranded after a strikeout and groundout to end the inning.

That left the game still at 3-1 for Osuna in the top of the ninth to finish off the save, which he would accomplish with a couple of groundouts before working around a two-out walk with a fly out to wrap up the win and put the Astros one win away from winning the series. 

Game 3: The teams get a day off on Sunday to travel to Cleveland for Game 3 on Monday. The game will be another early weekday game with first pitch scheduled for 12:30 PM Central on Monday afternoon and can be seen on TBS. The scheduled starters are Dallas Keuchel for the Astros opposite of Mike Clevinger for the Indians. The Indians will try to extend the series with their first game in front of their home crowd, while the Astros will be looking to make it a clean 3-0 sweep and move on to the ALCS in back-to-back seasons.

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Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March. Photo via: NRG Park/Facebook

Football players, coaches and general managers have come and gone, but only one person has been running the business side of the Texans, well, even before they were the Texans. Jamey Rootes has been President of the Houston Texans since 1999, when an NFL team in Houston was still just a gleam in owner Bob McNair's eyes. That's before the team adopted the name "Texans" in 2000, before there was NRG Stadium, which opened as Reliant Stadium in 2000, and before they became serial champs of the AFC South, six titles between 2011-2019.

The precise date was Oct. 6, 1999 when NFL owners voted 29-0 to award the NFL's 32nd and newest franchise to Houston. Not only that, Houston was awarded the 2004 Super Bowl. Rootes, 34 years old with no NFL experience, had his work cut out for him. Before taking the job in Houston, Rootes was team president, general manager and CEO of selling peanuts and popcorn for the Columbus Crew of Major League Soccer.

Major League Soccer, with all due respect, is not nearly a national obsession like the National Football League.

"I wasn't intimidated," Rootes said. "There's a quote that I love, 'Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain.' I've always been a purpose-driven person. As for the step up to the NFL, I went from knowing nothing at the start of my time in Columbus to five years later thinking, OK, I've got this sports thing down. Actually, I had a very significant reduction in my responsibilities in Houston. When I was in Columbus, I ran the stadium, I ran the team's business, I was the general manager so I did the talent side of it, too. When I came to Houston, all I had to do was the business, so that was great."

Rootes has captured his remarkable journey from the soccer team at Clemson to grad school at Indiana University to the business world at IBM and Proctor & Gamble to the Clemson Crew, to ultimately being named President of the Houston Texans in his new book, The Winning Game Plan: A Proven Leadership Playbook for Continuous Business Success, available next week.

I've known Rootes from his day one with the Texans, but I still had to ask: everybody knows what the general manager does, and what the head coach does. What exactly does the President of an NFL team worth $3.3 billion do?

"I like to use the parallel of a pharmaceutical company to describe my job. There are two sides to that company. First you put scientists in one building and you leave them alone. They create products, which is what our football team is. The football side has a coach and general manager and all the people who prepare the team to play on Sunday. But getting that product to market is done by the business side, traditional business disciplines. Those are the things that fall to me. Basically, everything between the white lines is run by the football side. Everything outside of those lines, I do," Rootes said.

Between 1999 and 2002, when the Texans played their first game (let the record show the Texans defeated the Dallas Cowboy, 19-10), the team was essentially a massive start-up project. First orders of business for Rootes involved building a new stadium, developing relationships with suppliers, contractors and government officials, preparing for a Super Bowl and, most important, developing a relationship with fans.

Rootes began writing The Winning Game Plan last March, but it's really an accumulation of lessons learned and behind-the-scenes stories about building the Texans from scratch into one of the most admired and valuable franchises in all of sports.

"I've always been a meticulous note-taker. I've kept every presentation I've ever done. I took all of my notes and concepts and put those down on paper," Rootes said. "To be a good leader, you need a wild imagination. You can show me a blank piece of paper, but I don't see it as blank. To me, it's a finished product that hasn't been created yet," Rootes said.

Rootes lays out his leadership strategy in seven chapters: Are You a Manager or a Leader, Get the Right People on Your Team, Build a Winning Culture, Create Raving Fans, a Winning Playbook for Adversity and Success, Your Leadership Playbook and Play to Win.

He learned lesson No. 1 the hard way. A friend once counseled Rootes, "your staff doesn't like the way you're all up in their business, you need to back off." Rootes took that advice to heart.

"It was an epiphany. I wasn't a leader. That's when I truly began thinking about leadership. I say this all the time, I don't do anything. All I do is create an environment where exceptional people can be their very best self. I know what's going on. I'm fully informed. I leave every game day exhausted. I get there early. I do the things I need to do. I kiss babies. I shake hands. I present checks. I entertain clients. I'm dialed in. It absolutely wears me out because I love this organization so much. I am so proud of what we've been able to do for this great city of Houston."

I asked Rootes, as someone who lives for Game Day and a packed NRG Stadium, are you devastated by 2020, the year of COVID-19 and small crowds limited by Centers for Disease Control guidelines?

"I don't look at it that way. I think there's a song by 10,000 Maniacs that said, these are the days that you'll remember. I told my staff, I know you're all going through hell right now, but later on in life, you'll talk about this year. Things that are important are memorable, for the positive and those things that leave a scar. You learn from adversity and you're a better person for enduring it. Victor Frankl said 'We can discover meaning in life in three different ways, by creating a work or doing a deed, experiencing something or encountering someone, and by the attitude we take toward unavoidable suffering.' Suffering is part of life. He should know, he survived a Nazi concentration camp," Rootes said.

H-E-B President Scott McClelland wrote the forward to The Winning Game Plan. Rootes dedicates the book to late Texans owner Bob McNair. Rootes' book is a fun read. All I kept thinking was, where was this book when I needed it? And before you buy too much into Rootes as a leader, consider that Rootes admits that he had to ask for wife Melissa's permission before he could accept the Texans job.

Personal note: I believe that a big part of leadership is the ability to keep a promise. Several years ago, I was riding my bicycle with my dog Lilly on a leash. It was the only way I could keep up with her. Well, one time Lilly saw a squirrel and pulled me off my bicycle. I tumbled a few times and rolled next to the curb. When I looked up, there was Jamey Rootes. I told him, "There's no need for you to tell anybody about this." He never said a word.

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