HOUSTON -- Marwin Gonzalez was 1-for-8 with six strikeouts in his career against Indians left-hander Andrew Miller when he stepped to the plate for his third at-bat on Saturday. But what Gonzalez did during that plate appearance negated all shortcomings vs. the tall lefty from the past.
Miller was brought in with two runners on and one out in the sixth inning of Game 2 of the American League Division Series for two reasons: He would force the switch-hitting Gonzalez to turn around and hit right-handed after logging hits in his first two at-bats from the left side, and Miller could presumably induce a ground ball or at least record a strikeout or two to preserve the Indians' 1-0 advantage.
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Instead, the only thing that got turned around was the score of the game.
Miller's second offering to Gonzalez was a 95-mph fastball up in the zone. Gonzalez jumped on it and sent it to the corner in right, driving in Jose Altuve from second and Alex Bregman from first. Gonzalez's double turned a one-run deficit into a 2-1 lead, and Bregman's solo homer in the seventh off Trevor Bauer provided insurance, as the Astros prevailed, 3-1.
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"I love the fact that [Gonzalez] went up there aggressive, looked slider early, hooked a ball down the line for a strike and then came back and hit the ball [to] the opposite field," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "The barrel contact off the ground into the outfield was huge. I'm proud of him because he's had to fight and claw, and he's been a huge part of our success not only this year, but recent years, and that's pretty awesome to see him come through."
Altuve led off the inning with an infield single off Indians starter Carlos Carrasco that dribbled just fair down the third-base line. Bregman drew a walk, prompting Cleveland manager Terry Francona to call for Miller.
"I think if I execute a better 0-1 pitch … it's my job to get through that inning," Miller said. "I didn't do it. That's really what it boils down to. I got ahead and then I didn't get a fastball where I wanted to, and everything kind of spiraled from there. Just not a good job. Poor execution."
Gonzalez said the at-bat was "weird," because he had spent most of his preparation leading into the postseason swinging from the left side, given how right-handed the Tribe's pitching staff is. Sandwiched in the lineup between right-handers Carlos Correa and Yuli Gurriel, Gonzalez did not think he'd be facing a lefty in that situation.
"I was lucky that I got that pitch and [we] got the runs to win the game," Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez led off the eighth with a single and was removed for a pinch-runner, ending his day at 4-for-4 with two RBIs. The four knocks tied an Astros postseason single-game record, and he wasn't the only Houston hitter to make history.
Bregman's homer off Bauer, which traveled 396 feet and bounced above the yellow line on the facade in left-center, was his sixth career postseason home run, tying him with Evan Longoria as the only third basemen in Major League history with six postseason homers prior to turning 25 years old.
"In the regular season, one run feels like a good lead," Bregman said. "In the postseason, when you're on defense, one runs feels like nothing; but when you're on offense, it feels like a ton. 'Oh God, we've got to score a run.' So any time you can tack on, it's big."