HOUSTON -- One pitch got away from Astros starter Gerrit Cole on Saturday, causing him to kick at the pitcher's mound dirt in frustration as shortstop Francisco Lindor crushed a hanging slider for a homer to put the Indians ahead in the third inning.
Cole, pitching hard and with emotion, hardly let the Indians breathe the rest of the day, striking out 12 batters against no walks and allowing three hits in seven dominating innings to lead the Astros to a 3-1 victory at Minute Maid Park and a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five American League Division Series.
"He made a mistake, and he learned from it with the Lindor homer," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "He was emotional. I loved the emotion off the mound when he's getting big strikeout after big strikeout. This is one of the best offenses in the league. They can do damage. They can put long at-bats together. He used all his pitches. He was creative. What else can I say? He was awesome."
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Cole joined Tom Seaver as the only pitchers in Major League history to strike out at least 12 batters in a playoff game without a walk. Seaver whiffed 13 Reds with no walks in Game 1 of the 1973 National League Championship Series for the Mets 45 years ago to the day.
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"I'm pretty thrilled with the no walks," Cole said. "Baserunners in postseason games are kind of tough to deal with at times. Sometimes the walk is needed. But [catcher Martin Maldonado] was just dropping down the right signs, and we were just pounding the zone. Pretty special day."
The series shifts to Cleveland for Game 3 on Monday, when the Astros can punch a ticket to the AL Championship Series for the second year in a row with a win. In the history of five-game series with the 2-2-1 format, teams that win Games 1 and 2 at home have gone on to take the series 24 out of 27 times (89 percent).
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"This is not our first playoff series," Hinch said. "We know it's not over."
Marwin Gonzalez (4-for-4), switching to the right side of the plate after two singles from the left side against starter Carlos Carrasco, came through for the Astros with a two-run double in the sixth inning off reliever Andrew Miller -- who had just entered in relief of Carrasco -- scoring Jose Altuve from second base and Alex Bregman from first to give Houston a 2-1 lead. Bregman homered off Trevor Bauer in the seventh inning to make it 3-1.
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"It was a tough season for me on the offensive side, but this is baseball," Gonzalez said. "Everybody knows how hard it is, how hard it is to be consistent. I've been putting in a lot of work. It felt good today. It's always easy to play when you have a pitcher like Gerrit. He kept us in the game until we were capable to score runs. That gave us a little confidence."
Cole became the fourth Astros pitcher to strike out at least 12 batters in a postseason game, and he joined Mike Mussina as the only pitchers with at least 12 K's in a playoff game against Cleveland. Mussina struck out 15 batters in Game 3 of the 1997 ALCS.
"It's always fun when you got a guy like that throwing strikes and overpowering the other team," Maldonado said. "It's really fun. That's why I didn't go out there [to the mound] once. He was in a rhythm. He knew coming into the game what he wanted to do, and he did it."
Cole retired 21 of the 24 batters he faced en route to tying Nolan Ryan for the third-most strikeouts in a playoff game in Astros history. Behind Cole, Game 1 starter Justin Verlander and a flawless bullpen, the Astros have held the Indians to six hits in two games.
"They did a great job of executing pitches, and they've taken advantage of some of our aggressiveness in some counts," Indians third baseman Josh Donaldson said. "But good-hitting offenses are aggressive. We just have to do -- I know especially for myself -- I have to do a better job of [recognizing the pitch I'm looking for when it gets in the zone]."
The only three baserunners the Indians managed off Cole were Edwin Encarnacion's single off first baseman Yuli Gurriel's glove to start the second, Lindor's homer with two outs in the third and Melky Cabrera's single with one out in the fifth. Cole struck out the side in the fourth inning and sent down 13 of 14 batters after Lindor's homer, including the final eight.
"When Frankie hit the home run, it gave us a huge lift, but that's a lot to ask to make that hold up," Indians manager Terry Francona said.
After Cole exited, Thomas Pressly tossed two-thirds of an inning before Roberto Osuna came on to record a four-out save. He struck out Lindor to end the eighth before working around a two-out walk in the ninth for his first save of this postseason.
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All-Star second baseman Altuve proclaimed he was fine after being briefly hobbled while beating out an infield single in the sixth inning after slipping coming out of the batter's box. Altuve started running gingerly as he crossed the base and was met at first by Hinch and a team trainer. He stayed in the game and wound up scoring on Gonzalez's double.
"It was just something on the play," said Altuve, who battled a sore right knee in the final few weeks of the season. "Obviously, I hit the ball and fell down and tried to get up and run. It was just a little thing, but nothing to worry about. Nothing that's going to get me out of the game."
All six of Bregman's postseason home runs have come against All-Stars: Chris Sale (two), Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, Corey Kluber and Bauer. He's hit the most home runs by an Astros third baseman in the playoffs, and he joined Evan Longoria as the only third basemen in Major League history with six postseason homers prior to turning 25 years old.
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Lefty Dallas Keuchel (12-11, 3.74 ERA) will get the start for the Astros on Monday in Game 3 of the ALDS at Progressive Field in Cleveland. He's 4-2 with a 3.24 ERA in eight games (seven starts) in the playoffs in his career. Mike Clevinger (13-8, 3.02) will start for the Indians.