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Astros defeat Indians 11-3, clinch ALCS berth

Cleveland returned home to try to keep the series alive, but Houston’s bats woke up and then some.

Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

The Cleveland Indians returned home for a must-win Game 3 on Monday against the Houston Astros. Things did not go as planned, though, and rather than forcing a Game 4, the Astros, who won 57 games on the road in 2018, crushed Cleveland 11-2 and advanced to the ALCS.

Unless you watched it unfold, it might be hard for you to believe that Cleveland was actually winning the game in the seventh inning. That is, until Houston scored three runs, and then followed that up with another six, finally capping it off with one more for good measure in the ninth.

The defending champion Astros will have to wait until at least Tuesday night to find out if they’ll be facing the Red Sox or Yankees in the ALCS. Should that series go the full five games, Houston will be waiting until Thursday night to know.

Cleveland’s last win when facing elimination was Game 6 of the 1997 World Series. They are now 0-9 in such games since then.

We live blogged the entire game, blow by agonizing blow, and you can catch up on all of it below.

Astros vs. Indians ALDS Game 3 Live Results

Hello, it’s Marc Normandin, here for your live blogging needs. Want to read said live blog from the beginning? Scroll down to the “1st inning” marker and work your way back up!

9th inning: Wow, it’s the ninth inning already? Ha ha ha, that’s just a little joke, this game has taken forever, and there’s still more to go.

Adam Cimber is on the mound for Cleveland now, and he’ll attempt to keep the Astros from scoring, something the staff has only successfully done once in the last four innings. Once again, it’s Tony Kemp leading off for Houston.

Remember, the Astros didn’t bat around in the previous two innings. Had he hit twice in the seventh and eighth, then yes, they would have. Alas, they simply sent nine men to the plate both times.

Kemp walks, Springer flies out, and then Kemp advances to second on a balk. No one was covering first base, so Cimber’s pickoff move sans pickoff was just a balk. Altuve grounds out, but Kemp advances to second. Two down, Bregman up once again. Bregman’s ALDS OPS is 2067.

Bregman singles, driving in Kemp, and now he’s at second and in scoring position thanks to a single by Gurriel. It’s Marwin time, again. At least the bases loaded aren’t loaded this time, Cleveland.

Mercifully, Gonzalez records an out, so we can move on to Cleveland’s final three outs of the game and their season. Barring a massive comeback effort right here, I mean.

Good start by Cleveland here! Encarnacion walks, and Donaldon singles to get two runners on. That’s quickly erased, though, as Greg Allen pinch-hits for Yandy Diaz, and proceeds to hit into a double play. Encarnacion is at third base, but Cleveland is down to their final out.

Encarnacion scores to make it 11-3 thanks to a wild pitch. He only scored because he was automatically advanced, however: Encarnacion held at third base, so as to not get thrown out at the plate — he knew his run didn’t matter.

That run will be the last Cleveland scores in 2018: Melky Cabrera grounds out to end the game and the series, and the Astros have advanced to the ALCS.

8th inning: Cody Allen remains in the game for the Indians, as does Melky Cabrera, who pinch-hit last inning. Tony Kemp is leading off the eighth after leading off the seventh — the seventh, as you can imagine, did not go well for Cleveland. Kemp strikes out this time around, though.

Welp, George Springer hits his second homer of the game, third of the series, and 10th of his postseason career. Just stop pitching to him in October, everyone. 5-2, Astros.

Altuve doubles, and that’s followed by an intentional walk of Bregman. Gurriel is now up with two runners on... scratch that, in scoring position following a wild pitch. Gurriel is now intentionally walked to load the bases, and Cleveland replaces Allen on the mound with Brad Hand.

He’ll face Marwin Gonzalez, whose performance with the bases loaded an inning ago might very well have decided the ALDS. Gonzalez adds another RBI here with a single to center, and it’s 6-2, Astros. Evan Gattis is now pinch-hitting for Reddick with the lefty Hand on the mound.

Gattis and his extra long beard strike out, bringing up Correa, who is still without a hit in the ALDS. He’s walked twice today, though, so it’s not as if he’s done absolutely nothing in the last week. He has a chance to do a lot more and all but put this game away right now, though.

Another wild pitch gives the Astros a 7-2 lead. Correa swings at what would have been ball four, but instead, it gets him his first hit of the postseason: a three-run homer. The Astros are up 10-2.

Remember an inning ago when Cleveland was winning 2-1? Y I K E S. Marty Maldonado strikes out to end the inning, but man, damage done. 10-2, Astros, heading into the bottom of the eighth. Cleveland has six outs left to make up a whole lot of ground.

Lance McCullers is in the game for Houston now, following McHugh’s high-quality relief outing. He gets Kipnis to fly out to Jake Marisnick, who is in the outfield now that it’s 10-2. Lindor and Brantley follow that up with singles, and it’s something, but they might have to bat around this inning just to have a chance at a comeback.

Batting around, of course, would mean that Kipnis, the first batter of the inning, would return to the plate for his second plate appearance of the frame, as the 10th batter contained within it. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves, however.

Jose Ramirez is up, and... he hits into an inning-ending double play. It’s still 10-2, and Cleveland is down to their last three outs.

7th inning: The Astros aren’t exactly running out of time in the series or anything given they’re up 2-0, but they also need to score some runs soon if they’re going to close out the ALDS today. They’ve got nine outs left in Game 3 and Trevor Bauer on the mound.

Tony Kemp hits a single to right on the first pitch, and that brings up George Springer, who homered last time he was up. Bauer tries to pick Kemp off, but he misses by a mile and Encarnacion can’t wrangle it: the ball bounced into the stands, and Kemp is awarded second base. The tying run is in scoring position for Houston with no outs.

Springer works a full count — this is a dangerous place for Bauer to be in, needing to throw a good pitch here to a hitter who can make him pay, and with no outs. Springer barely makes contact, basically bunting by accident, but it worked out for Houston: there are now runners at the corners for Altuve with no outs, and the go-ahead run is on first base.

Altuve hits a grounder that causes a force out at second and scores the tying run, but the throw to first goes right through Encarnacion’s glove and legs, so Altuve is safe at first. It’s 2-2, and the Astros only had to give up one out to make it happen when it should have been two. To make matters worse for Cleveland, here’s Alex Bregman.

lol, welp. Bauer fields a comeback from Bregman, but his throw takes Lindor off of the bag at second, which means Altuve is safe, and then the throw to first is late, so Bregman is safe, too. Two on, just one out, and here’s Gurriel.

Gurriel works a 2-2 count, and Bauer is 31 pitches into his outing. As Dennis Eckersley points out, the velocity is there, but Bauer seems to be having some trouble hitting his spots. To emphasize that point, Bauer walks Gurriel to load the bases for Marwin Gonzalez.

Cleveland’s bullpen is empty, which is a good reminder that Andrew Miller isn’t the guy he used to be. After a mound conference, Miller does get up in the bullpen — the fact that isn’t inspiring confidence but he’s there anyway says a lot about the state Cleveland left their pen in for 2018.

Bauer throws three consecutive balls Gonzalez, and on the 3-1 pitch, Gonzalez lifts a pitch high and outside to deep left field, scoring two runs. That pitch was ball four, easy, and Gonzalez somehow got his bat where he needed to, and the ball went where no one was. 4-2, Astros, and there are still two runners in scoring position and just the one out.

Andrew Miller is in, and he got Josh Reddick to fly out. Two outs, and the sac fly has been removed from the equation this inning. Miller then goes to 3-1 on Correa, and ball three certainly looked like it hit Correa. His lack of response to being hit in the knee suggests he wasn’t hit, though, and that some weird physics shit just happened instead.

Correa draws the walk, and Miller is already at 13 pitches after two batters — for a guy who has been pitching like he’s always tired this year, that’s probably not a good sign given it’s just the seventh inning. Oh, and also the bases are still loaded, and here’s Tyler White to pinch-hit for McCann.

Terry Francona agrees nothing good can come of keeping Miller in the game, and pulls him for Cody Allen. Allen also did not have himself a year like he usually does: a 4.70 ERA, his worst K/BB since his rookie season, and a career-worst in homers allowed (11) and home run rate (1.5 per nine).

He’s not exactly who you want with the bases loaded in a win-or-go-home game while already down, but again: where else does Cleveland have to turn? They left Bauer in as long as possible for a reason.

Allen strikes out White, though, ending the threat: Cleveland is down 4-2 after seven, but they have nine outs left to make up that deficit.

Yandy Diaz leads off against McHugh, and strikes out — McHugh’s third of his outing. Melky Cabrera is now coming in to pinch-hit for Guyer — he’s 1-for-6 in the series so far. It’s to no avail — he grounds out, and then Gomes strikes out to ending the seventh.

6th inning: It is indeed Bauer on the mound for Cleveland in the sixth. Gonzalez lashes a liner to right field, and Guyer kind of slides/falls into catching it to keep the Astros off the bases. Awkward play, but he got there, and it counts the same regardless of attractiveness.

Reddick drops one into center field in front of Kipnis, though, which puts the tying run on first with one out. Carlos Correa will try to do something with that. He’s yet to pick up a hit in the ALDS. He’s still looking for his first, too, as he pops up to second. Brian McCann doesn’t inspire much faith for getting much out of this inning, as he goes down 0-2 in a hurry and doesn’t look great doing it.

McCann does end up striking out, and Bauer is able to maintain the lead he was handed. 2-1, Cleveland, still.

Collin McHugh enters the game in relief of Keuchel, and he immediately gets Jose Ramirez to pop out. He follows with a strikeout of Encarnacion, which brings up Josh Donaldson. Donaldson is 0-for-9 with a walk in the ALDS, and he didn’t pick that walk up until today.

Donaldson’s 0-for-10 now after a punch out, and McHugh keeps the score 2-1 after six.

5th inning: Clevinger has thrown 77 pitches through four, and he’ll begin the fifth by facing Kemp, Springer, and Altuve. He walked Kemp the last time up, and he’s got him to a full count here now, Clevinger’s fifth of the day. Kemp flies out, but it’s hard not to notice his climbing pitch count.

Or that ball George Springer just devastated: he hits his second homer of the postseason on Clevinger’s 82nd pitch of the afternoon, and it’s a 1-1 ballgame.

Cleveland’s pen is double barreled right now, with Trevor Bauer and... someone else whose identity I did not catch before the camera panned away, sorry. But Francona isn’t about to let Clevinger get near 100 pitches if he can help it, from the looks of things.

Clevinger does strike out Altuve — number eight on the day — for the second out, so he’s not exactly failing. But still, with the way Cleveland’s offense is going, every pitcher needs to be completely on point to stay in, and Clevinger, at 90 pitches after a 2-0 count to Alex Bregman, might not be there right now.

It’s now a 3-2 count, Clevinger’s sixth of the day, and he’s at 94 pitches after a foul ball. This might be the right-hander’s final batter regardless of outcome, given the speed at which the pen was working. That’s ball four, so Bregman is on base for the third time today. Clevenger has eight strikeouts and has allowed just one run, but he’s also got all those full counts and three walks in 4-2/3 innings: it has not been an easy one-run game.

Clevinger remains in the game to face Gurriel, so apparently Cleveland is willing to risk it. That, or they want Bauer in, and know that he might need a little extra time to warm up given he’s normally a starter.

Bauer’s the only one still up in the pen, so my guess is probably correct. And Cleveland’s risk pays off! Gurriel strikes out swinging on Clevinger’s 99th pitch of Game 3, and you have to imagine that’s the end for him. He certainly did work before that end, though. 1-1 as we head to the bottom of the fifth.

Keuchel has taken a much more efficient route to the same destination: he just threw his 71st pitch of the game to record the first out of the bottom of the fifth, and, just like Clevinger, has allowed just the one run.

Kipnis and Lindor are still due up this frame. Keuchel strikes out Kipnis — just the second strikeout of the game for Keuchel — but Lindor immediately erases any mildly good feelings that generated by hitting a solo homer. It’s now 2-1, Cleveland. Brantley grounds out to end the inning, but the damage is done.

Hey, remember when Lindor dropped a sac bunt earlier instead of facing Keuchel with a runner in scoring position?

4th inning: The Astros will bring Reddick, Correa, and McCann to the plate this inning. Let’s see if they’re starting to figure Clevinger out, or if last inning’s threat was just a blip.

Reddick flies out to begin the inning and Correa follows with one of his own, which is a good start for Clevinger’s lead protection. He picks up his seventh strikeout of the afternoon on McCann to end the top of the frame, and the Astros have gone down 1-2-3.

Encarnacion goes down via ground out, and Donaldson walks after. Diaz can’t move him over, though, as he pops out to Altuve. Brandon Guyer is once again up with a runner on. He strikes out, but hey, Cleveland is still up 1-0 after four.

3rd inning: Good news, sports fans!

The Astros pick up their second walk of the afternoon to open the third thanks to Tony Kemp, and now they’re back to Springer and the top of the order.

Clevinger gets Springer swinging on a slider that badly fooled him. Maybe it’s a weird thing to say with his numbers being so similar, but 2018 Clevinger just looks a lot more dominating and in control than 2017 Clevinger did. Maybe it’s more that his performance looks like it backs up the results more this time around. Anyway, here’s Jose Altuve.

Altuve singles following an error on a pickoff attempt, so it’s now first and third for Houston with Bregman at the plate. That’s pretty much the situation Cleveland wanted the least: men on base for Bregman.

Speaking of things Cleveland doesn’t want to happen:

It’s gross that Cleveland is wearing the Wahoo hats today. It’s also gross that if I want to root against their season continuing I have to root for the team that’ll put domestic abuser Roberto Osuna on the mound to close things out.

Bregman ended up hit by a pitch to loaded the bases, but all is not lost yet for Clevinger. He strikes out Gurriel, which brings up Gonzalez to try to salvage something from this threat.

Clevinger gets out of it! Gonzalez gives a ball a ride to left, but it’s a harmless fly out, and we’re off to the bottom of the third, still scoreless.

Yan Gomes singles to get the third going, and that brings us Jason Kipnis, who has yet to pick up a hit in the series. He’s also struck out five times in six at-bats, so, you know, it’s probably time for him to change that. Any time now, Jason.

And he took my advice! A single to right puts a runner in scoring position with no outs, and here’s Francisco Lindor to do something with that. Lindor drops a sacrifice bunt even though one of the runners was already in scoring position and he’s one of the better hitters in the game. Sure!

Here’s Michael Brantley, now with one fewer out in the inning than Cleveland had before. He does get a run in with a sac fly hit to center, so the Indians are on the board, 1-0. This whole bunt situation will feel a lot better if Jose Ramirez can drive in Kipnis from third here, though.

Ramirez hits a shot to the warning track, but it’s hauled in, so Cleveland will have to settle for one run for now. Play for one run and that’s what you’ll get: 1-0, Cleveland.

2nd inning: All I can think about looking at Mike Clevinger sometimes is Breckin Myer’s character from Clueless. Ole Travis Birkenstock-looking starter.

Clueless Wiki

Clevinger misses bats a lot, but he’s making a point of letting you know this is the case today: he’s got another two strikeouts this inning, on Marwin Gonzalez and Josh Reddick. Carlos Correa walked, though, so the Astros are still alive in the second, and Brian McCann is up.

Clevinger gets his own grounder to put McCann away, and the Astros have been held scoreless for two. Every game in the series has started with strong pitching: which team is going to crack first today?

Here’s Keuchel vs. Edwin Encarnacion to kick off the bottom of the second. He flies out, and Josh Donaldson follows with a ground out. Yandy Diaz follows with a hard-hit double through a hole in the infield, though, so Cleveland has their first hit and a runner in scoring position. Brandon Guyer is the one with the opportunity to make sure Cleveland strikes first in Game 3.

Guyer grounds out — get used to seeing that today — and the threat is over. It’s still 0-0 after two full in Cleveland.

1st inning: Cleveland might be in for yet another ALDS defeat, at least if this series keeps going the way it’s been going. They’ll send Mike Clevinger to the mound to take on Dallas Keuchel, because we are now living in a world where former Cy Young winner Keuchel is the Astros’ third starter.

Granted, he’s not the pitcher he used to be — he had a 108 ERA+ this past season, and his strikeouts dipped below seven per nine — but still. Houston is up 2-0, and they don’t have to win today behind Keuchel but might, while Cleveland has no choice but to win behind Clevinger. Who, by the way, is pretty great at pitching these days: the 27-year-old has a 146 ERA+ over the last two years and 321 innings, most of them coming as a starter.

Clevinger is off to a good start, striking out George Springer to kick off Game 3 and then Yuli Gurriel to end the top of the first. Sure, Alex Bregman ended up on second base, but there seems to be little stopping him right now, anyway.

Keuchel, by the way, didn’t perform as well as usual overall, as mentioned above, but he’s been more like the Dallas Keuchel of old during the second half of his season. He had a 4.45 ERA on June 10, but over his following 20 starts, he managed a 3.23 mark. The strikeouts still weren’t there, however, so if Cleveland can make good contact, they’ll have opportunities to capitalize.

Of course, Keuchel’s contact tends to be of the ground ball variety, and he gets through the first with ease thanks to those. 0-0 after one.