The visiting Astros completed a sweep of the Indians in the best-of-five American League division series, holding Cleveland to six runs on 13 hits over three games.
“It’s awesome, a great day for us as a team,” Springer said. “I’m happy to be heading home.”
Houston will face either the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series with the winner advancing to the World Series.
The Astros outlasted the Los Angeles Dodgers in a seventh-game showdown to win last year’s World Series for their first championship.
Springer’s solo homers in the fifth and eighth innings gave him eight homers in nine playoff games in a streak dating to last year’s title run, matching a major league playoff record shared by Reggie Jackson, Jim Thome and Carlos Beltran, who did it most recently in 2004.
“Personal results don’t mean anything now. It’s all about how can I help us win,” said Springer. “It’s about having fun and doing whatever it takes for us to win.”
Houston seized the lead for good with three runs in the seventh inning, the uprising starting when Tony Kemp singled, took second on a throwing error, reached third on a Springer single and scored when Jose Altuve hit into a fielder’s choice to pull the visitors level at 2-2.
After that, Alex Bregman reached base on an error and Yuli Gurriel walked to set up a two-run double to left field by Marwin Gonzalez to put the Astros ahead 4-2.
Springer’s solo blast began a six-run eighth inning for Houston, which also included a three-run homer by Carlos Correa that all-but sealed Cleveland’s fate. Each team scored once in the ninth to produce the final victory margin.
Cleveland’s Michael Brantley drove in Yan Gomes with a sacrifice fly out to open the scoring in the third inning.
Springer blasted a solo homer in the fifth inning to equalize but the Indians regained the lead on a solo homer by Francisco Lindor in the bottom half of the frame.
The Astros will now turn things over to Dallas Keuchel. He posted a 3.74 ERA in 204 regular-season innings. Keuchel faced Cleveland twice during the regular season. Both times in May. He allowed four runs in five innings the first spin, then threw a quality start his second go around.
Cleveland’s hopes, meanwhile, will rest on the hair-covered shoulders of Mike Clevinger. Clevinger accumulated 200 innings during the regular season, tallying a 3.02 ERA and more than a strike out per frame. In two starts against the Astros, he allowed 15 hits and eight runs in 11 2/3 innings. Cleveland will need better than that from him on Monday.
This is a best-of-five series, so it’s an elimination game. The Astros can close this down and turn their focus to Game 1 of the ALCS while the Indians need to win three straight here to stay alive.
Here’s what you need to know to watch Astros vs. Indians Game 3:
CLEVELAND (AP) — Indians manager Terry Francona juggled his struggling lineup for Game 3 of the AL Division Series against Houston.
With his club batting .100 (6 for 60) in the series and facing left-hander Dallas Keuchel, the Indians are starting right-handed hitters Yandy Diaz at designated hitter and Brandon Guyer in right field. Also, Edwin Encarnacion will switch from DH and play first base, replacing left-handed Yonder Alonso.
The Indians were dominated in Games 1 and 2 by Astros fireballers Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole. Cleveland has had some success against Keuchel, beating him on May 19 in Houston. The Indians scored three runs in the first inning and chased Keuchel after in five innings.
In his second matchup against Cleveland on May 25, he allowed two runs and eight hits in six innings.
Astros manager A.J. Hinch made two switches, starting Brian McCann behind the plate and using Tony Kemp as his DH instead of Tyler White, who served that role in the first two games.
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CLEVELAND — The Houston Astros, who have dominated the Cleveland Indians in the first two games of their American League Division Series, will attempt to complete a three-game sweep Monday afternoon at Progressive Field.
The first two games were mismatches.
Houston won 7-2 and 3-1, thanks to dominating pitching, and lots of big hits from its stars.
In the first two games Houston’s pitchers held Cleveland’s hitters to a team batting average of .100. Indians hitters were 6-for-60, and five of the six hits were singles.
Francisco Lindor, who homered in Game 2, is 2-for-8 in the two games while all the other Cleveland hitters are 4-for-52 (.077).
“Hats off to them. Their pitchers have done a tremendous job.” Lindor said. “But we’ve got really good hitters on this side. We’ll be fine.”
The Indians, who blew a 2-0 lead over the Yankees by losing three straight games in last year’s ALDS, are in danger of losing three in a row to Houston in this year’s ALDS.
“We need to find a way to win on Monday. We’re going to show up and play for our baseball lives,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “Nobody wants to go home, so we’re going to try to keep this thing going.”
The Indians will try to keep their postseason hopes alive by sending to the mound a pitcher that has never started a postseason game.
Right-hander Mike Clevinger was 13-8 with a 3.02 ERA this year, including 200 innings pitched and 207 strikeouts. But in his three-year career he has never started a postseason game.
Clevinger has made six relief appearances in the postseason and has a 6.43 ERA in those games. In a total of seven innings as a reliever he has given up six runs, five earned, five hits, including two home runs, with nine walks and six strikeouts.
In two starts against the Astros this year Clevinger was 0-2 with a 6.17 ERA. In four career starts against the Astros he is 1-3 with a 3.98 ERA.
“Our backs are against the wall,” Clevinger said. “We know that this could be our last game if we don’t show up.”
Keuchel has a tough act to follow. In the first two games, Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole combined to go 2-0 with a 2.19 ERA, 19 strikeouts and two walks in 12 1/3 innings, while holding Indians hitters to a .119 batting average.
“They have a very good ballclub. They have a lot of ways to beat you.” Francona said. “They’re always pushing. They put the heat on you all the time.”
Keuchel (12-11, 3.74) was 0-1 with a 4.91 ERA in two starts against Cleveland this year. His last start against the Indians was on May 25, when he received a no-decision, pitching six innings, allowing two runs and eight hits, with five strikeouts and one walk. In eight career appearances against Cleveland Keuchel is 4-1 with a 2.79 ERA.
Clevinger will have to deal with Houston’s two hottest hitters in the first two games, Alex Bregman who is 3-for-6 with two homers and three RBIs, and Marwin Gonzalez, who is 5-for-7, with a double and two RBIs.
Although they are up 2-0 and one win away from advancing to the ALCS, the Astros are not taking anything for granted.
“This is not our first playoff series. We know it’s not over,” manager A.J. Hinch said.
It’s only the fourth day of Division Series play, but the eight remaining contenders are already closing in on a number of franchise and MLB playoff records. Here are just a few of the ways the Astros, Indians, Braves, and Yankees are setting themselves apart this postseason:
The starting pitchers in the first two games of a postseason series each racked up 200+ strikeouts during the regular season — a first in MLB history.
In Game 1 of the ALDS, Astros ace Justin Verlander (290 strikeouts) went up against the Indians’ Corey Kluber (222 strikeouts), while Game 2 featured a matchup between Gerrit Cole (276 strikeouts) and Carlos Carrasco (231 strikeouts). Both times, the Astros’ strikeout leaders came away looking far more dominant: Verlander whiffed seven batters across 5 1/3 innings in Game 1, while Kluber made his exit in the fifth with just two strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings. During Game 2, Cole recorded his first postseason win for Houston while tossing seven innings of one-run, 12-strikeout ball — just a smidgen better than Carrasco’s two-run, three-strikeout performance through the first 5 1/3 innings of the Indians’ eventual loss.
Both Altuve and Bregman have the chance to pull ahead as the franchise leader in postseason home runs: Thanks to Altuve’s fifth-inning solo home run off Kluber in Game 1 of the ALDS and Bregman’s 396-foot blast off Trevor Bauer in Game 2, they’ve each logged eight home runs in their postseason careers, the same as longtime slugger Carlos Beltrán accumulated during his first career postseason run. Beltrán set the record back in 2004, when he decorated his NLCS campaign with a solo shot off of the Cardinals’ Julian Tavarez.
Not only is this an unfortunate first for the Braves — it’s also just the second time it’s happened in MLB history. The Braves will enter Game 3 of the NLDS on Sunday night with just nine hits (and zero runs) to their name after getting blanked by the Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw and Hyun-Jin Ryu in Games 1 and 2, respectively
No other playoff team has been shut out in the first two games of a playoff series since 1921, when the Giants opened the 1921 World Series with an 0-2 record against the Yankees. While the Giants eventually staged a massive five-game comeback to take the Series, it’s not certain that the Braves will be able to muster the same kind of strength to overpower the Dodgers for the next three games and advance to the NLCS — let alone the Fall Classic.
Not only did Cole take the edge over Carrasco during Game 2 of the ALDS on Saturday; he nearly tied the all-time record for most strikeouts in an ALDS game to date, too. The current record is held by Hall of Fame southpaw Randy Johnson, who delivered 13 strikeouts for the Mariners in the 1997 ALDS. Cole came just one strikeout shy of that mark after he was pulled in the eighth inning of Saturday’s game, making his exit from the mound with three hits, one run, zero walks, and 12 strikeouts over seven innings. He also placed second to Hall of Fame hurler Tom Seaver, who was the first to strike out at least 12 batters with zero walks during a postseason performance.
The Yankees held their own hit parade during Game 2 of the ALDS on Saturday night, led by Aaron Judge‘s 445-foot homer off of Red Sox southpaw David Price in the first inning. Sanchez tacked on two more home runs to become the first Yankees’ catcher since Yogi Berra to record a multi-home run performance in the postseason (Berra earned his stripes during Game 7 of the 1956 World Series).
His second long ball of the evening registered 479 feet — longer than any home run Statcast has tracked in the Division Series since 2015. The current record-holder for longest postseason home run still belongs to the Cubs’ Willson Contreras, however, who clubbed a 491-footer off of Dodgers lefty Alex Wood in the 2017 NLCS.
Entering Sunday and Monday’s games, three of the eight playoff teams are poised for a Division Series sweep. While the Rockies, Braves, and Indians don’t exactly have history on their side, they wouldn’t be the first to claw their way back from an 0-2 deficit. Eight teams have worked their way back from an 0-2 start to the Division Series: the 1981 Dodgers, 1995 Mariners, 1999 and 2003 Red Sox, 2001 and 2017 Yankees, 2012 Giants, and 2015 Blue Jays. Perhaps less encouraging: Only the Dodgers and Giants pushed through their initial disadvantage to lay claim to a World Series.
CLEVELAND (AP) — The Indians are very familiar with the postseason hole they’re currently stuck in. They saw one just like it last October – from above.
At least they know it can be scaled.
But Cleveland’s climb in this AL Division Series seems much steeper than just the 2-0 deficit they’re facing after dropping the first two games in Houston. The defending World Series champion Astros have shown their exceptional pitching and extraordinary depth while outplaying the swing-and-miss Indians in every facet of the game.
”They’ve played pretty much perfect baseball to this point,” Indians third baseman Josh Donaldson said following Saturday’s 3-1 loss. ”We have had a couple mistakes the first couple games, and now, it’s our time to respond.”
Or another Cleveland baseball season will end before the leaves change colors.
Houston’s in complete control.
Astros aces Justin Verlander and Gerrit Cole dominated Cleveland’s hitters in Games 1 and 2 as Houston’s pitchers combined on consecutive three-hitters. The Astros piled up 24 strikeouts against one of the league’s most balanced lineups, which is batting a combined .100 in this ALDS. The Indians’ offense was so anemic Saturday that they didn’t have a single at-bat with a runner in scoring position.
”We had good at-bats,” Lindor said. ”I know we struck out a lot. We had good at- bats, but the hits haven’t fallen. We’ll be fine.”
But as bleak as things appear for the three-time AL Central champions, who will start Mike Clevinger in Game 3 on Monday against Dallas Keuchel, only have to look back to last October for inspiration. As painful as that might be.
The Indians jumped out to what appeared to be a commanding 2-0 lead in the ALDS before New York stormed back and won three straight to advance, denying Cleveland a return trip to the World Series and extending the club’s title drought to 70 years.
The Yankees paved the comeback trail. It’s up to the Indians to follow it.
”It might be a little unfortunate that we know it can be done,” said usually reliable reliever Andrew Miller, who replaced starter Carlos Carrasco in the sixth inning and gave up Marwin Gonzalez’s go-ahead, two-run double in Game 2. ”We certainly have a day to regroup. That’s how I’m looking at it. I have a day to regroup, and then, I’ll be in. Ready to succeed in the same spot. We aren’t giving up just yet.”
History isn’t on Cleveland’s side, either. Of the teams to take a 2-0 lead at home in 2-2-1 format, 24 of 27 have gone on to win the series.
The Astros, though, are Cleveland’s biggest problem.
Despite trailing 1-0 in Game 2 and having little success against Carrasco, Houston put together a rally that began innocently with star second baseman Jose Altuve reaching on an infield dribbler after he nearly fell on his face trying to exit the batter’s box. Carrasco then walked Alex Bregman before getting Yuli Gurriel on a fly to left.
That’s when Terry Francona turned to Miller, an October supernova two years ago when he nearly carried Cleveland to a World Series title. But the left-hander’s second pitch was pounded into the right-field corner, where Melky Cabrera struggled to corral it as Altuve scored easily and Bregman slid home just ahead of a relay throw.
The Astros’ lead was just 2-1, but with Cleveland’s bats dormant, it felt like 12-1.
Francona didn’t second-guess his decision to bring in Miller, but the left-hander’s struggles this season might make him re-consider using him again. Cleveland has no margin for error, and Francona, who guided Boston to a 3-0 comeback in the 2004 ALCS, knows the Astros have few flaws.
”Part of why they’re good is, obviously, their pitching, but they always push,” he said. ”They continue to push. And they put heat on you all the time. They’ve got a very good ball club, and part of – like we’ve been talking about it since the day before the series – they continue to push, and they either run you in the mistake or hit the ball out of the ballpark. They have a lot of ways to beat you.”
The Astros would have every reason to feel confident, but they’re not looking past the Indians.
”This is not our first playoff series,” manager A.J. Hinch said. ”We know it’s not over. We’re not going to take anything for granted. Our mindset will be get after Game 3 and try to do everything you can to win it and end the series.”
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