Indians and Astros take 2-0 leads; Cubs win first game with Nationals
CLEVELAND (AP) — They’ve won this season in almost every way imaginable: comebacks, walk-offs, blowouts, nail-biters.
No. 104 for the Cleveland Indians topped them all.
Yan Gomes singled home Austin Jackson from second base with none out in the 13th inning as Cleveland rallied from five runs down to stun the New York Yankees 9-8 on Friday and snatch a 2-0 lead in the AL Division Series.
Despite an atrocious start by ace Corey Kluber, losing slugger Edwin Encarnacion with a severely sprained ankle in the first and facing the possibility of playing their final game at home, the Indians, with some help from a call that went their way, continued a charmed season growing more and more special by the day.
Jackson drew a leadoff walk in the 13th from Dellin Betances and stole second. Gomes went to a full count before pulling his bouncer just inside the third-base bag, easily scoring Jackson and touching off another one of those wild celebrations inside Progressive Field, where the Indians have been so good while running away with their division and winning 22 straight.
As Jackson sprinted home, Cleveland’s players poured out of the dugout and mobbed Gomes at the conclusion of a wild, 5-hour, 8-minute thriller that featured 14 pitchers and a call that may haunt Yankees manager Joe Girardi for months.
ASTROS 8, RED SOX 2
HOUSTON (AP) — Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and the high-powered Astros led the majors in runs, hits and batting average in the regular season.
Now that it’s playoff time, Houston is still hammering away.
Correa homered , doubled and drove in four runs, Altuve got two more hits and the Astros battered the Boston Red Sox 8-2 Friday to take a commanding 2-0 lead in the AL Division Series.
George Springer also homered to back Dallas Keuchel in Houston’s second straight romp by the exact same score.
The Astros will go for a sweep in the best-of-five matchup Sunday at Fenway Park, a year after Boston was swept in the ALDS by Cleveland. Brad Peacock (13-2) starts for Houston against Doug Fister (5-9).
A day after Altuve hit three home runs in the playoff opener, he got things going with a two-out single in the first inning off Drew Pomeranz. Correa, who went 0 for 4 on Thursday, made it 2-0 when he launched a towering shot onto the train tracks atop left field.
Keuchel pitched into the sixth, allowing one run and three hits while striking out seven to improve to 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA in three career postseason starts.
CUBS 3, NATIONALS 0
WASHINGTON (AP) — Kyle Hendricks goes about things completely differently than Stephen Strasburg does on the mound.
The kid from Dartmouth relies on a fastball that on a good day reaches 88 mph — about 10 mph slower than Strasburg’s — and a deceptive changeup. Instead of power, he gets by on precision, guile and smarts.
Hendricks outpitched Strasburg in Game 1 of the NL Division Series, giving up only two hits in seven innings to help the Chicago Cubs open defense of their first World Series title in 108 years by beating the Nationals 3-0 on Friday night.
Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo produced RBI singles with two outs in the sixth inning for the first two hits off an otherwise-dominant Strasburg. Rizzo added a run-scoring double in the eighth off Ryan Madson.
Carl Edwards Jr. threw a perfect inning and Wade Davis finished the two-hitter for a save.
Unlike No. 1 overall draft pick Strasburg, Hendricks went in the eighth round. Unlike Strasburg, Hendricks has never been an All-Star. Unlike Strasburg, who already has signed a $175 million, seven-year deal that begins next season, Hendricks earned less than $800,000 in 2017.
But this was Hendricks’ time to shine.
“He was tricking us tonight,” Nationals manager Dusty Baker said, “and seems like those kind of guys give us more trouble than guys who throw hard.”
The slender righty, who led the NL in ERA last season, gave up a single in the first and another in the second — and that was it for the Nationals.
He walked three batters and struck out six.
“He knows the scouting report,” said Jon Lester, who starts Game 2 on Saturday for Chicago against fellow lefty Gio Gonzalez. “He knows where guys’ weaknesses are.”
Harper — wearing shoes with “Pray for Las Vegas” written on the side following the recent mass shooting in his hometown — was 1 for 4 as he tries to regain his timing after returning last week from a 42-game injury absence. Otherwise, Washington’s elite hitters — Anthony Rendon, Ryan Zimmerman, Daniel Murphy, Trea Turner and Jayson Werth — were a combined 0 for 17 with three walks.
“Definitely, your confidence builds,” Hendricks said, “when you start seeing those swings.”
The fact that Hendricks approached 90 mph as often as he did was an aberration he and teammates attributed to adrenaline, but one that helped, of course.
He also knew he needed to be really good, because of what Strasburg was doing.
Strasburg didn’t allow a hit until there were two outs in the sixth. Baez reached on Rendon’s error at third base to start the inning and was sacrificed to second by Hendricks. One out later, Bryant drove in the first run with a single to right-center and went to second when Harper’s throw missed the cutoff man.
Bryant, Rizzo said, managed to “get the monkey off the back in the dugout for all of us.”
Rizzo followed by singling to right in front of a diving Harper to make it 2-0.
With a heavy beard and a lot of sweat on a muggy, 77-degree night, Strasburg dialed up his fastball to 98 mph and mixed in an unhittable changeup. To cheers of “Let’s go, Strasburg!” from many in a sellout crowd of 43,898, he struck out 10 to set a playoff record for the Expos-Nationals franchise.
Strasburg wound up allowing just those two unearned runs in seven innings, with three hits and one walk.
“You’re aware of it,” Hendricks said about Strasburg. “You know how well he’s throwing on the other side.”
Hendricks threw well, too.
“It was,” Cubs catcher Willson Contreras said, “a masterpiece.”
Less than a half-hour before the game, the Nationals announced that assistant hitting coach Jacque Jones has been suspended with pay pending an internal investigation. The team said the suspension is connected to a legal matter. The 42-year-old Jones retired as a player in 2008 after 10 years with four teams.
“That was kind of a downer before the game,” Baker said, “because he’s a big part of the team.”
Cubs: Lester makes the 20th postseason start of his career, which includes three World Series titles and an NLCS MVP award last year. He is 9-7 with a 2.63 ERA over his postseason career.
Nationals: Gonzalez goes in Game 2 instead of two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, who is slated for Game 3 at Wrigley Field on Monday. Scherzer has been dealing with a sore right hamstring. It will be Gonzalez’s first playoff start at home since Game 5 of the 2012 NLDS against St. Louis, when he was staked to a 6-0 lead in a game Washington lost 9-7.
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After Jackie Bradley Jr. had an RBI single in the Boston second, the Astros started to break away.
Springer hit his first postseason homer when he sent the second pitch of the third inning into the front row of the seats in right field.
So is Red Sox manager John Farrell surprised that the series has been this lopsided so far?
“They’re very good, they’re deep, and they have got a number of ways to beat you,” he said. “So we fully respect and understood the opponent, and they’re playing like that.”
A double by Alex Bregman set up an RBI single by Altuve later in the third, making it 4-1 and ending Pomeranz’s first career postseason start after two relief appearances. The lefty kept his head down as he trudged toward the dugout after being lifted.
“Any mistake that we’ve made these past two games, they’ve made us pay for them,” Pomeranz said. “It’s playoff baseball, and these guys have come out swinging.”
David Price, the starter-turned-reliever with the $217 million contract, pitched 2 2/3 scoreless innings for the Red Sox. Following his exit, Houston tacked on four runs in the sixth.
A two-out intentional walk to Altuve, the major league batting champion this season, led to a two-run double by Correa . The top overall pick in the 2012 draft and crown jewel of Houston’s yearslong rebuilding project raised his hands in delight and motioned for the crowd to get louder as he stopped at second base.
Red Sox right fielder Mookie Betts had an error that looked like it was pulled from a blooper reel earlier in the sixth when he caught a fly ball by Bregman then simply lost the ball as he tried to throw it back in. Betts looked confused as the ball dribbled away from him and he was charged with an error, allowing a run to score.
“I’m not even sure how it happened,” Betts said. “I messed up.”
Keuchel, the 2015 AL Cy Young Award winner, known as much for his beard as his devastating sinker, was cheered on by Houston’s other famous bearded superstar as Rockets guard James Harden watched from a front-row seat behind home plate.
Keuchel’s father, Dennis, also was in attendance and multiple television shots showed him looking a mixture of excited and nervous as he gazed at his son’s work.
The left-hander had trouble settling in early and after needing 30 pitches to get through the second inning, it looked like this start might be a short one. But he struck out the last two batters of that inning as the first of 13 straight he retired.
Keuchel exited to a standing ovation after walking Hanley Ramirez with two outs in the sixth inning.
Altuve, who hit .346 this year, kept punishing pitchers. After singling in his first two trips to the plate, giving him five hits in the series, the Red Sox had seen enough and intentionally walked him in the fourth. That drew a loud chorus of boos from the home crowd, which greeted Altuve with a standing ovation in his first at-bat.
Farrell was asked if the fourth inning was too early to intentionally walk Altuve.
“No, he’s been dynamite,” he said. “You pick your poison. He’s an extremely hot, extremely good hitter. Felt like we were going to move on and go to the next guy.”
Many fans held signs saying that Altuve should be this season’s MVP and one behind home plate proclaimed in sparkly multi-colored letters: “Altuve, He’s Pretty Good.”
Boston also gave him a free pass in the sixth inning, but had to pitch to him in the seventh with the bases loaded and two outs. Austin Maddox, who gave up Altuve’s third homer on Thursday, jumped into the air and pumped his fist after striking him out.
It didn’t matter much. Even with the strikeout, his average in the series is .714.
Betts said his wrist flared up on a swing in the eighth inning but that he’s OK.
“It’s going to take some time to heal, but we don’t have that kind of time right now,” he said.
HURRICANE MARIA RELIEF
Correa, who is from Puerto Rico, has partnered with Astros owner Jim Crane to charter a plane filled with water, food and other supplies to deliver to the island on Sunday to help those affected by Hurricane Maria.
“Obviously a lot of people are suffering from hunger and they’re going through tough times right now, so I just want to bring a little bit of help over there,” Correa said.
Fister (5-9, 4.88 ERA), who pitched for the Astros last season, will start for Boston in Game 3 on Sunday against Peacock (13-2, 3.00 ERA), who will be making his postseason debut.
Francisco Lindor hit a grand slam in the sixth to rally Cleveland, which will try for a sweep in Game 3 Sunday at Yankee Stadium. Carlos Carrasco will start for the Indians against Masahiro Tanaka, who will try to extend New York’s season.
The Yankees had their chances late, but they stranded the go-ahead run at third in the ninth and 10th — and had pinch-runner Ronald Torreyes picked off second in the 11th by Gomes from the behind the plate.
Josh Tomlin, who had been scheduled to start later in the series, pitched two perfect innings for the win as Francona ran out of relievers in a game started by his best pitcher.
Aaron Hicks hit a three-run homer off Kluber and Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird hit two-run shots for the Yankees, who may have caught a bad break before Lindor’s homer.
New York’s Aaron Judge went 0 for 3 and is hitless in seven at-bats in the series with five strikeouts.
The Yankees lost consecutive games for the first time since they were swept at home in a three-game series by the Indians from Aug. 28-30. Now, they need to sweep three in a row from Cleveland.
Down 8-3, facing New York’s vaunted bullpen, the Indians came back.
New York starter CC Sabathia was lifted with one on and one out in the sixth for Chad Green, another one of the Yankees’ flame-throwers who got an out before Gomes doubled. Green came inside and Lonnie Chisenhall was awarded first by plate umpire Dan Iassogna on a hit by pitch.
TV replays showed the ball slightly change direction — it appeared to hit the knob of Chisenhall’s bat.
Girardi said there wasn’t enough evidence within 30 seconds to justify a challenge. He said the team later saw a slow-motion replay suggesting he should’ve contested the call, but it was too late.
“There was nothing that told us he was not hit by the pitch,” Girardi said.
New York catcher Gary Sanchez said he heard something, but wasn’t sure what. Sanchez caught the pitch on a fly — it would’ve been strike three if it had been ruled a foul tip — and immediately pointed to the Yankees dugout, indicating they should consider challenging the call.
Girardi nodded and held up a finger, asking for time to make a decision.
“I didn’t think it hit him, because he never reacted,” Sanchez said through a translator. “He stood there. But it’s just stuff that happens in the game.”
Lindor then stepped in and hit a towering shot off the inside of the right-field foul pole to make it 8-7. Before he left the batter’s box, Lindor gave his shot some help.
“As soon as I hit it, I knew it had a chance of going out,” Lindor said. “Then after a couple of steps, I was like, ‘No, don’t go foul, please. Just stay fair.’ I started blowing on it a little bit. As soon as it went out, it was just a lot of emotions.
As Lindor rounded the bases with Cleveland’s first postseason slam since Jim Thome in 1999, Progressive Field shook the way it did last November when Rajai Davis hit a two-run homer in eighth inning of Game 7 off Aroldis Chapman, then with the Cubs and now closing for the Yankees.
Bruce, who has done everything since coming over in an August trade, led off the eighth with his homer to left off reliever David Robertson, who pitched 3 1-3 scoreless innings and earned the win in the wild-card game over Minnesota.
Five innings later, the Indians finally broke the tie. They matched the longest postseason game in Cleveland history — Tony Pena’s homer in the 13th beat Boston in Game 1 of the 1995 ALDS.
Kluber wasn’t himself. Not even close.
The right-hander, who led the AL in wins, ERA and intimidation, didn’t get out of the third inning as Francona pulled him after allowing Hicks’ three-run homer.
It was the shortest outing this season for Kluber, and as he slowly walked off the mound, Cleveland’s stunned crowd gave him a polite ovation and several teammates approached him to offer consolation.
“I threw too many balls,” Kluber said. “And when I’d throw strikes, they were right over the plate.”
After rolling his ankle, Encarnacion stayed on the ground and rolled in the infield dirt in obvious pain while waiting for medical attention. He was helped to his feet and had to be assisted off the field.
Francona said an MRI showed a sprain the Encarnacion, who hit 38 homers with 107 RBIs, is day to day.
Sidelined for Cleveland’s deep postseason run in 2016, Michael Brantley is along for the ride this year and the plan — before Encarnacion got hurt — was for the All-Star to start Game 3 in left.
He replaced Encarnacion in the second and went 0 for 5.
Carrasco went 11-3 with a 2.65 ERA in 17 road starts. Tanaka, who struck out a career-high 15 in his last start, will be making his second postseason start for the Yankees. He lost the wild-card game in 2015.
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