The Houston Astros are just one win in three tries away from their second straight trip to the ALCS. Saturday, they had a come-from-behind 3-1 win over the Cleveland Indians. The series is now 2-0 in favor of the Astros and it's a best-of-five, so Cleveland's backs are up against the wall.
Here are seven things to know about Game 2.
Odd play opens door for Astros rally
Indians starter Carlos Carrasco was brilliant through five innings. He had allowed just five hits (all singles) without having walked anyone or allowing a run. The Indians were clinging to a 1-0 lead (we'll get to that), though, as Carrasco's counterpart, Gerrit Cole, was also amazing.
Leading off the bottom of the sixth inning, Astros second baseman Jose Altuve hit a weak grounder down the third-base line. He stumbled out of the box. The roller appeared in replays to be heading foul, but Indians third baseman Josh Donaldson picked it up before that happened and threw the ball over everyone into foul territory in right field. Altuve had hurt himself on the stumble and couldn't advance, but he stayed in the game. Replays from behind Donaldson showed rather clearly that the ball would've gone foul.
Instead, Carrasco issued his first walk of the game and the Astros were in business. Yuli Gurriel lined out (it was crushed) and that caused Indians manager Terry Francona to remove Carrasco in favor of lefty Andrew Miller. Marwin Gonzalez greeted Miller with a two-RBI double
That's right. The Cubs tied the Rockies in the NL Wild Card Game, but lost. The Rockies tied the Brewers in Game 1 of the NLDS, but lost. That was it. Every other time, the team that scored first would hold the lead and win, through eight games.
Not this time, though. The Astros took a lead after trailing for a few innings.
Back to Marwin Gonzalez. He would end up going 4 for 4 in the game while gathering the tying and winning RBI. Decent work, eh?
The last time Cole got a start in the playoffs, it was against the Cubs in the 2015 NL Wild Card Game. He gave up four runs, including two home runs, in five innings and took the loss. That leads us to this:
He's been on a different level this season and it carried over into the ALDS. Cole was exceptional, allowing just one run on three hits in seven innings. He struck out 12 and didn't walk anyone.
The Astros' leaderboard for single playoff game strikeouts:
14 - Mike Scott, 1986 NLCS Game 1
13 - Justin Verlander, 2017 ALCS Game 2
12 - Nolan Ryan, 1986 ALCS Game 5
12 - Cole on Saturday
I know strikeouts are a lot more common these days, but getting the Indians for double digits was not something that happened much at all this season:
James Paxton was the only pitcher to have a double-digit strikeout showing against the Indians this season, posting 10 on April 26.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) October 6, 2018
Also, via MLB Stat of the Day, Cole is the second pitcher ever to record at least 12 strikeouts without a walk in a postseason game. The other? Tom Seaver.
What an outing for Cole.
Miller seems broken
In 2016, the lanky lefty Andrew Miller was a national story. He was an incredible force out of the Indians' bullpen and was one of the biggest difference-makers en route to the unlikely AL pennant. This season has been a totally different story. Miller battled injuries all season and pitched to a 4.24 ERA and 1.38 WHIP. In 2016, he had 123 strikeouts and nine walks in 74 1/3 innings. This season, he had 45 strikeouts and 16 walks in 34 innings.
Miller technically didn't allow any runs in Game 2, but he coughed up the big blow and then walked Carlos Correa on four pitches (and then an intentional walk) before Trevor Bauer came in to bail him out of a bases-loaded jam.
Looking at the name "Andrew Miller" during the postseason evokes a sense of dominance, but we need to keep in mind the 2018 version is a far inferior product than what we've seen in the past.
Bregman gives breathing room
A one-run lead is a bit nerve-wracking late in playoff games. With a 2-1 lead against the Indians -- a team with several players capable of popping a solo shot without notice -- in the seventh inning, the Astros were in need of some insurance. Bregman provided it with a bomb to left-center:
Now through two playoff games this season, Bregman is hitting .500 with two homers and three RBI.
Lindor struck first
Starters Gerrit Cole and Carlos Carrasco were making a mockery of the opposition early. It was 0-0 through two innings and there wasn't a realistic threat to put a run on the board. Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor stepped in with two outs in the top of the third, though, and to put the Tribe up, 1-0.
The star shortstop hit 38 homers in the regular season and this is his fourth career postseason shot.
The Astros nearly struck right back
In the bottom of the third, Josh Reddick led off with a line drive single. After a Martin Maldonado sac bunt, George Springer hit a hard shot up the middle that handcuffed Lindor and was ruled an infield single. There were runners at the corners for Jose Altuve and just one out. Altuve hit an absolute rocket, but it was right at Indians third baseman Josh Donaldson. He went to turn two. Knowing that Altuve can motor, second baseman Jose Ramirez hurried so much that he caused himself to fall down on the throw, but it was accurate and the double play ended the threat.
It was a fun inning to watch for those with no horse in the race here. It's also worth mentioning the Indians grabbing Josh Donaldson on Aug. 31 and making the decision to move an MVP candidate from third to second to accommodate him. It was on display here.
Tall order for the Indians
They return home and that's good, but that's where the good news ends. There have been 78 past series that started with a 2-0 lead. Of those, 46 (59 percent) ended in sweeps. Only 10 (12.8 percent) saw the team that started down 0-2 come back to win the series and advance.
It's certainly possible, it's just extremely unlikely. The Astros are pretty awesome, too, so I'd say the odds are considerably lower than 12.8 percent for the Indians to win this thing. They aren't buried yet, but it's a deep hole.
Game 3 takes place in Cleveland's Progressive Field on Monday. at 1:30 p.m. ET (subject to change).