Five takeaways from the Astros 3-1 win in Game Two of the ALDS.
The Astros cruised to a 2-0 ALDS lead over the Rays with a 3-1 win on Saturday. The game was tense at times, especially in the 9th inning. But a masterful performance from Gerrit Cole led the way, while the offense did just enough.
Gerrit Cole is good at baseball
Cole’s performance was simply otherworldly. He set a new franchise postseason record with 15 strikeouts and didn’t allow a runner to reach second base until the 8th inning. It seems like he just continues to get better.
If Cole and Justin Verlander continue to pitch the way they have these first two games, the Astros may end up hanging another banner at Minute Maid Park. Cole looks like arguably the best pitcher on the planet and is setting himself up for a huge payday this offseason.
Harris > Osuna
Roberto Osuna has been the closer all season and will probably remain so, despite his difficult outing on Saturday. But Will Harris has been the better pitcher all season, which is why AJ Hinch goes to him in a crunch.
Osuna looked plain dominant when he came into the 8th inning with a pair of runners on base and got the final out on a three-pitch strikeout. But he quickly reverted to his bad Osuna alter-ego, allowing two hits and two walks in the 9th before being pulled for Harris.
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Harris saved the day, as he so often does. Fans may clamor for Hinch to make Harris the closer, but that’s unlikely to happen. Harris has so much value in his current role that he will probably remain in it unless Osuna completely falls apart.
The header is both a reference to the part of Carlos Correa‘s body that’s been giving him fits, as well as a statement that he’s returned to form. From the opening batter, Correa showed he’s fine by making a sterling defensive play deep in the hole, turning and firing a throw to first base.
He also added a pair of hits at the plate including a double in the 6th and an RBI single in the 8th. If Correa, batting in the seventh spot in the order, can put up productive at-bats, the Astros will be awfully tough to beat.
George Springer had some pretty rough at-bats through the first two games of the ALDS. He’s 0-for-8 with a walk and two strikeouts and has left several runners on base. Two games isn’t reason to panic, and perhaps a day off with the team holding a 2-0 lead will do him some good and ease his mind.
The team as a whole has not hit well with runners in scoring position, so Springer is far from the only one to blame for the offense’s struggles. You also have to tip your hat to the Rays, who have a strong pitching staff. But the Astros have to hope Springer gets it going sooner rather than later.
Bullpen Still in Good Shape
Thus far, Hinch has only used three relief pitchers — Osuna, Harris and Ryan Pressly. The Rays hitters have not seen Joe Smith, Hector Rondon or Josh James in this series, all of whom could be used if needed.
It’s still not clear if Jose Urquidy or Wade Miley would start a potential Game Four, but with Zack Greinke taking the ball in Game Three, that might not be a decision Hinch has to make. With a day off in between, Hinch should have all of his pitchers at his disposal to try and complete the sweep on Monday.