CLEVELAND -- The Astros passed their first October test as the defending World Series champions with flying colors, burying the Indians with a relentless offense and solid pitching on Monday afternoon to earn a champagne celebration they hope won't be their last.Marwin Gonzalez hit a two-run double in the seventh
CLEVELAND -- The Astros passed their first October test as the defending World Series champions with flying colors, burying the Indians with a relentless offense and solid pitching on Monday afternoon to earn a champagne celebration they hope won't be their last.
Marwin Gonzalez hit a two-run double in the seventh inning to break a tie, and George Springer etched his name in history by cranking two first-pitch solo homers to send the Astros to an 11-3 win over the Indians at Progressive Field and a three-game sweep of the American League Division Series.
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A three-run homer by Carlos Correa -- his first hit of the ALDS -- capped a six-run eighth inning as the Astros secured their first playoff sweep in franchise history.
"When we have an opportunity to advance, you've got play well against really good teams," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "Cleveland is really good. Their pitching staff is really good. I know we scored runs, I know we put pressure on them, but our team stays the course. We don't back down and don't settle. Our team really shows up."
The Astros advanced to the AL Championship Series, awaiting the winner of the Red Sox-Yankees ALDS that was tied at one game apiece entering Monday. Game 1 would be on Saturday in Boston (if the Red Sox advance) or in Houston (if the Yankees move on).
"They present a lot of challenges, and they're worthy of moving on," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Whoever they play, they'll be a handful."
The Astros dominated the series, outscoring the Indians, 21-6, with the pitching staff posting a 0.70 WHIP. Houston was 11-for-30 with runners in scoring position, compared with 0-for-6 for Cleveland.
"We just came in here knowing we were a better ballclub," Astros outfielder Josh Reddick said. "Going up 2-0 at home was huge. We've been the best ballclub I've seen on the road. We came in here with all the confidence in the world we were going to get the job done. Credit the pitching staff for setting the tone for us so we can stay in games."
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Springer, last year's World Series MVP, homered in the fifth inning to tie the score and become the Astros' franchise leader with nine career playoff homers. He added a solo blast in the seventh for No. 10, and his eighth in his past nine postseason games, tying a record held by Reggie Jackson (1977-78), Jim Thome (1998-99) and Carlos Beltran (2004 with the Astros).
"It's not about personal stuff here," said Springer, whose 32 playoff hits are the third-most in franchise history, behind Craig Biggio (39) and Lance Berkman (34). "It's about the team. So I'll take it."
After smothering the Indians with dominant starting pitching in Games 1 and 2, the Astros withstood five solid innings from Tribe starter Mike Clevinger before Cleveland's defense unraveled in the seventh. The Indians' bullpen imploded an inning later.
Trevor Bauer, who came on in the sixth inning with a 2-1 lead, made two errors throwing to the bases in the seventh that helped Houston tie the score on Jose Altuve's fielder's choice. With the bases loaded, Gonzalez hit a shoulders-high fastball off Bauer into the left-corner for a two-run double to score a pair and put Houston ahead, 4-2.
"It was an ugly swing, but I was lucky enough to keep it fair and get the lead by that time," Gonzalez said. "What I just wanted to do in that at-bat was at least get a fly ball and bring in a run and then get the lead. Everybody knows what Bauer can do on the mound. He's a good pitcher. I was looking to keep the ball fair."
The Astros batted around in the seventh and eighth, scoring nine runs to blow open the game, and scored 14 of their 21 runs in the series in the seventh inning or later. Houston's bullpen allowed one run and four hits in 9 2/3 innings.
"We gave ourselves so many opportunities, and at the end we broke through," Hinch said. "I love this team, because we can beat you in a couple of different ways. We put up really good at-bats. Our bullpen was unbelievable, and you have guys step up who had up-and-down seasons. Marwin Gonzalez, up-and-down season, comes through. Obviously, [Alex] Bregman had a great series. Yuli [Gurriel] didn't get a lot of love but had some big at-bats. It doesn't matter where we are in the order. We can hurt you."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The score was tied at 2 with one out in the seventh when Bregman hit a chopper back to the mound. It was a tailor-made double-play ball for Bauer, who had a chance to end the inning and keep the game even if he could turn it. Instead he turned and threw wide of second base, allowing Altuve to slide in safely, and the relay throw to first was late. A walk to Gurriel loaded the bases, then Gonzalez doubled to give the Astros the lead.
"Honestly, I was trying to put something in play," Bregman said. "It was hard to see with the shadows. I got jammed. He threw a good fastball in, a two-seamer in."
The Astros are 14-2 in the postseason when Altuve has at least one hit, and 11-0 when he has at least one RBI.
HE SAID IT
"Our guys came out ready to play and ready to show we're the World [Series] champions. The World Series runs through us and runs through Houston, and that's what we came out and did from the jump." -- Collin McHugh, who got the win in Game 3
The Astros advance to face either the Red Sox or the Yankees in the ALCS. Justin Verlander is likely to be Houston's Game 1 starter.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.