October orbit: Astros advance with 11-3 win, sweep Indians
By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer
Tuesday, October 9
CLEVELAND (AP) — As his teammates sprayed each other with champagne and beer in Houston’s buzzing clubhouse, ace Justin Verlander stayed clear of the fray and foam while enjoying a cigar.
This wasn’t the time to get soaked. Bigger parties lie ahead.
The Astros are back in an October orbit.
The defending World Series champions advanced to the AL Championship Series for the second straight year — with surprising ease — by completing a division-round sweep of Cleveland on Monday with an 11-3 lashing in Game 3 helped by two key throwing errors from Indians reliever Trevor Bauer.
“No one takes anything for granted here,” Verlander said. “That’s the DNA of the guys in this clubhouse. This team has a propensity to do big things in big spots. This is an atmosphere that breeds winning.
“We have the most complete team in baseball.”
Marwin Gonzalez hit a two-run double off Bauer in a three-run seventh inning , and the Astros scored 10 runs in their final three at-bats to turn a series that was supposed to be competitive into a complete rout.
“We’re the reigning world champs, and we really have a good ability to show up for the day,” Houston manager A.J. Hinch said. “So proud of our guys, the work they put into the winter. It was a short winter for us. As you can see, our guys are pretty hungry to advance.”
The Astros moved to the ALCS on-deck circle, where they await the Boston-New York winner for a shot to play for another championship.
George Springer homered twice, Carlos Correa hit three-run homer for his first hit of the postseason and Houston’s bullpen combined for four scoreless innings, including six straight outs by winner Collin McHugh , as the AL West champions served notice that a second Series title is on their itinerary.
After the Astros finished this demolition of the Indians, they briefly celebrated on the infield at Progressive Field before donning ski goggles in their clubhouse.
For the Indians, another postseason ended earlier than planned. Cleveland was beaten in the first round for the second year in a row — New York came back from a 2-0 deficit in 2017 — and baseball’s longest World Series championship drought will reach a 71st anniversary.
The Indians hit just .144 in the series, were outscored 21-6 and have lost six straight playoff games. They were swept for the first time since the 1954 World Series.
“We got to go home now, before we’re ready to,” manager Terry Francona said. “That hurts. It always stings. I just told the guys, we’ve got a number of guys that are free agents. You know there’s going to be some turnover, and it’s a real special group to all of us.
“So that’s a hard one, when you’re saying goodbye before you’re ready to.”
Reliever Andrew Miller, one of several potential free agents, couldn’t allow himself to think about the future while saying goodbye to teammates.
“There’s probably a million things you could point to why we didn’t win three games,” said Miller, who was on the disabled list three times this year. “This is isn’t the way we want it to end.”
Francisco Lindor homered off a circular digital clock in the fifth off Dallas Keuchel to give Cleveland a 2-1 lead that vanished in the seventh.
With a major assist, actually two of them by Bauer, the Astros rallied off Bauer. The starter-turned-postseason reliever, who took the loss, stooped behind the mound and dropped his head after his two errant throws.
Tony Kemp singled and was awarded second when Bauer’s pickoff throw hopped into the photographer’s pit . Springer reached on a dribbler that catcher Yan Gomes couldn’t make a play on as Kemp took third. Jose Altuve grounded into a forceout, with Kemp scoring to tie it 2-2 .
Bauer got the dangerous Alex Bregman to hit a comebacker. But the right-hander’s throw to second was off line , pulling Lindor off the bag and and both runners were safe — a mistake that surely will haunt the enigmatic pitcher all winter.
“I caught the ball. I turned around to throw it,” Bauer said. “I saw Frankie going to my right and the umpire crossing over and going to my left. I was in the middle of throwing. I kind of flinched. I made a bad throw. There’s no way around it. That should have been the end of the inning.
“It was a 2-2 game and we’re in the seventh and had a chance. I didn’t execute.”
As he walked to the dugout, Bauer, who did not commit an error in 28 appearances this season, received a polite ovation from Cleveland fans. They appreciated that the Indians had to ride him in October because of all the other problems in the team’s bullpen.
Mike Clevinger gave Francona a terrific outing — five strong innings before Bauer entered.
Springer, who struck out on three pitches in his first two at-bats against Clevinger, got him the third time and drove the first pitch into the left-field bleachers to tie it 1-all.
It was Springer’s franchise-record ninth homer in the postseason — he hit No. 10 in the eighth — and gave the Astros a homer in 12 straight playoff games, matching the AL record set by Baltimore (1983, 1997). After hitting just three home runs in the final 1½ months of the regular season, Springer went deep three times against Cleveland.
Unlike the Indians, who coasted to a third straight title, Houston got pushed.
But once the Oakland Athletics applied pressure, the Astros took off and went 29-10 after Aug. 18.
They’re soaring again.
“At no point this season was there any complacency with this team,” Verlander said. “If I had been traded here after they won the World Series, instead of before it last year, I would have assumed this was a young and hungry team when I walked in the clubhouse.”
Houston hit eight homers in the series, including two from Bregman and one apiece from Correa, Altuve and Martin Maldonado.
The Astros, who were seventh in the AL with 205 homers in the regular season, connected four times in Game 1.
The Indians have lost nine straight consecutive postseason games when facing elimination, dating to Game 7 of the 1997 World Series.
Springer has seven homers in his last seven postseason games, matching the Lou Gehrig, Reggie Jackson and Carlos Beltran for the best seven-game span in history.
“I’ll take it,” Springer said. “When you look at guys on that list, wow.”
Francona said center fielder Leonys Martin has made significant progress following his battle with a life-threatening illness. Martin contracted a virus shortly after he was acquired in July from Detroit.
“He’s doing OK, physically,” said Francona, who expects the 30-year-old to be ready for spring training. “He’s healing so fast that I think it’s surprising the doctors at how quickly his heart has come back.”
Martin was hospitalized with stomach pain, but he fell into critical condition with a bacterial infection that entered his bloodstream and attacked organs.
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‘Embarrassing’: Yanks routed by Red Sox 16-1, trail ALDS 2-1
By BEN WALKER
AP Baseball Writer
Tuesday, October 9
NEW YORK (AP) — Their ace got booed off the mound, loudly. Their manager let things get out of hand. And their backup catcher wound up pitching.
“It was an embarrassing day today,” New York Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius said.
Not much else to say after the Yankees absorbed the most-lopsided loss in their distinguished, 396-game postseason history, routed by the Boston Red Sox 16-1 Monday night in the AL Division Series.
Now down 2-1 and in danger of being eliminated in the best-of-five matchup, they’ll turn to CC Sabathia on Tuesday night in hopes of saving their season. Rick Porcello starts for Boston.
“No choice but to flush,” manager Aaron Boone said. “The good thing about today is it’s one game. And as awful of a night as it was for us, we got to turn the page. And tomorrow’s obviously do or die.”
Luis Severino looked out of sorts from the start. There was a TBS report that he began to warm up only 10 minutes before the game began, but Boone insisted he had enough time to get ready. Severino also said there was no issue.
“I always go to the bullpen 10 minutes before the game,” Severino said. “I warm up quickly.”
The game fell apart quickly, too.
Severino was tagged for six runs on seven hits and two walks in three-plus innings. Jeered as he walked to the dugout during a seven-run burst in the fourth, it soon was 10-0.
By the seventh, the stands had started to empty. The fans who left early missed a bit of history — Austin Romine became just the second position player to pitch in a postseason game.
The second-string catcher actually hit 90 mph with his fastball. And he squarely hit Brock Holt’s bat, and the result was a two-run homer in the ninth that gave Holt the first cycle in postseason history.
“I was just trying to get it over the plate,” Romine said.
Romine joined Toronto infielder Cliff Pennington, who pitched in the 2015 AL playoffs against Kansas City, as non-pitchers to take the hill at this time of year.
“No, I didn’t envision myself getting into the playoffs in this role,” he said.
Holt’s homer helped the Red Sox post the biggest rout of the Yankees in postseason play, surpassing Arizona’s 15-2 pasting in Game 6 of the 2001 World Series.
A sellout crowd arrived early at Yankee Stadium, loudly chanting and cheering even before the teams lined up for pregame introductions. Clearly, no one rooting for the home team expected anything like this.
Catcher Gary Sanchez dropped a pitch on a stolen base that set up Boston’s first run. Left fielder Andrew McCutchen was slow to retrieve a hit that proved costly. And Boone was slow to pull a struggling Severino, admitting he could’ve made the move sooner, rather than waiting until Boston loaded the bases in a hurry.
“I mean, in hindsight because he didn’t get an out, sure,” Boone said.
And when Boone did call for a reliever, he summoned a starter, Lance Lynn, rather than someone from the deep New York bullpen.
Lynn promptly walked Mookie Betts on four pitches to force home a run that made it 4-0, then gave up a three-run double to Andrew Benintendi.
“Lance had a little bit of trouble, obviously, coming in there. So it just turned into a really bad inning for us,” Boone said.
It was a sharp turnaround for Severino.
Severino started New York’s postseason with four shutout innings in the AL wild-card win over Oakland last Wednesday. The performance also alleviated fears in the Bronx — temporarily, anyway — the 24-year-old righty had put past playoff troubles behind him.
Instead, coming off a career-high 19 wins, he exited with a 1-2 record and a 6.26 ERA in six postseason starts.
“Of course, I’m disappointed,” Severino said.
Machado, Dodgers finish off Braves in NLDS with 6-2 win
By PAUL NEWBERRY
AP Sports Writer
Tuesday, October 9
ATLANTA (AP) — The Los Angeles Dodgers went through all the expected motions after winning a playoff series.
They broke out T-shirts and caps. They posed for pictures in the middle of SunTrust Park. They doused each other with beer in the clubhouse.
Then, just like that, their focus turned to bigger goals ahead.
For a power-packed team that hasn’t won a World Series since 1988, nothing less will do.
“We all know that there’s a lot more work to be done,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said after his team finished off the Atlanta Braves with a 6-2 victory Monday in the NL Division Series. “We have eight more wins to go.”
Manny Machado hit a three-run homer and David Freese came through again in the postseason to lead the Dodgers into the NL Championship Series for the third year in a row. Los Angeles moved on to face the Brewers after taking out the Baby Braves 3-1 in the best-of-five series.
Game 1 is Friday night in Milwaukee, the Dodgers’ fourth championship series in six seasons.
“We prepared ourselves to get here,” Machado said, “and we’re not going to stop till we get what we want.”
Of course, this is just what the Dodgers had in mind when they bolstered their already power-packed lineup by acquiring the slugging shortstop — and free agent-to-be — from lowly Baltimore back in July.
Machado had only three hits in the series, but two of them were homers to go along with six RBIs. He got the Dodgers going in Game 4 with a run-scoring double in the first , and effectively wrapped up the series with his seventh-inning shot off rookie Chad Sobotka that cleared the Dodgers’ bullpen in left.
“There are so many expectations put on him,” Roberts said. “We have a lot of good players, but I can’t say enough about his focus and preparedness.”
Coming off a tense victory in Game 3, the Baby Braves grabbed the lead on pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki’s two-run single in the fourth.
But Freese, the 2011 World Series MVP with St. Louis, countered with a pinch-hit single of his own in the sixth off Brad Brach , driving home Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig for a 3-2 lead.
“You just gotta be ready,” Freese said. “Whether you’re in high school, college, whatever, just be ready. You don’t have to be the best player in the world, you don’t have to make the most money, but you’re going to have a shot to do something cool. I learned that early in my career. I just try and stick with it.”
Ryan Madson earned the win by getting the final two outs in the fifth to escape a bases-loaded jam. The Braves’ final gasp came in the eighth, when Lucas Duda’s drive into the second deck in right drifted foul with two on against Kenta Maeda. Duda flied out to end the inning, and Atlanta went down quietly in the ninth.
The Braves’ return to the postseason for the first time since 2013 yielded a familiar result.
Atlanta has lost nine straight playoff appearances, their last victory coming 17 long years ago against a team that is no longer in the National League. Since a sweep of Houston Astros in the 2001 NL Division Series, October has been a month of misery for the Braves.
Getting back to the playoffs ahead of schedule after a massive rebuild, Atlanta simply didn’t have the experience, depth or power to stick with the power-packed Dodgers. Los Angeles had a franchise-record 235 homers during the regular season and eight more against the Braves, accounting for 14 of its 20 runs.
Tinseltown has become Boomtown.
“They’re a very powerful team,” Braves manager Brian Snitker said. “It’s what they’ve done all year is hit home runs. We’re not built like that yet.”
Los Angeles also benefited from some shaky Atlanta defense during its go-ahead inning. Puig kept the sixth going with a popup down the line off loser Jonny Venters that fell between second baseman Ozzie Albies and right fielder Nick Markakis.
Puig stole second without drawing a throw and came home when backup shortstop Charlie Culberson failed to knock down Freese’s sharp grounder up the middle. A super sub during the regular season, Culberson had to start in the playoffs because of an injury to regular Dansby Swanson.
“They played better baseball than we did,” Culberson said.
Rich Hill of the Dodgers walked five in 4 1/3 innings, including a pair leading off the fifth that set up Suzuki’s two-run single. Atlanta’s Mike Foltynewicz walked four (one intentional) in four innings before he was lifted.
Hill isn’t much of a hitter, but he sure made Foltynewicz work for an inning-ending strikeout in the fourth.
After falling behind 0-2 in the count, Hill fouled out five straight pitches.
Finally, Foltynewicz blew a 97 mph fastball by the .107 career hitter.
The Braves brought out another Hall of Famer to deliver the ceremonial first pitch.
Former Atlanta manager Bobby Cox one-hopped his toss to the plate but still received a big ovation from the Atlanta crowd.
Chipper Jones threw out the first pitch before Game 3.
The announced crowd of 39,586 was nearly 3,000 smaller than the previous night’s record SunTrust Park turnout, perhaps because of a 4:30 p.m. start time that coincided with Atlanta’s notorious rush hour.
The Dodgers beat Milwaukee 4-3 in the season series. Both teams won division titles with one-game playoff victories the day after the regular season.
Atlanta opens the 2019 season at Philadelphia on March 28.
Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at https://apnews.com/search/paul%20newberry