October 6, 2019 / 5:19 AM / 11 days ago

Cole fans 15, Astros' pen holds on to down Rays

EditorsNote: Small tweak in lede; tweaks 7th graf (fixes Kiermaier); adds quotes (3rd, 9th, 10th grafs)

Oct 5, 2019; Houston, TX, USA; Houston Astros manager AJ Hinch (14) talks with media before game two of the 2019 ALDS playoff baseball series against the Tampa Bay Rays at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

HOUSTON — Gerrit Cole set a club postseason record with 15 strikeouts, while battery mate Martin Maldonado delivered both at the plate and behind it as the Houston Astros held on for a 3-1 win over the visiting Tampa Bay Rays in Game 2 of their American League Division Series on Saturday.

Cole (1-0) became just the seventh pitcher in postseason history to record at least 15 strikeouts, the first since Roger Clemens posted 15 against the Seattle Mariners in Game 4 of the 2000 AL Championship Series. Mike Scott held the franchise postseason record for strikeouts with 14 set Oct. 8, 1986, against the New York Mets in the National League Championship Series.

“He’s unbelievable,” Astros shortstop Alex Bregman said of Cole afterward. “Seriously, he’s got the best stuff in baseball. He’s a bulldog on the mound. He’s more prepared than anybody.”

Dominant by every measure, Cole surrendered just four hits and did not issue a walk until his 3-2 slider to Rays shortstop Willy Adames just missed the outside part of the plate with two outs in the top of the eighth.

Cole ceded the mound to closer Roberto Osuna, who promptly struck out Yandy Diaz on three pitches to preserve what was then the Astros’ two-run advantage.

After the Astros added a run in the bottom of the eighth, Osuna surrendered a run in the ninth and was pulled with the bases loaded with one out.

Will Harris came on, striking out Travis d’Arnaud and getting Kevin Kiermaier to ground out to get the save. The Astros will take a 2-0 series lead to St. Petersburg for Game 3 on Monday.

Cole threw 118 pitches, 83 for strikes, and his 33 swinging strikes were the most in a playoff start in the data-tracking era. He averaged 97.9 miles per hour on 60 four-seam fastballs, struck out every batter at least once, and fanned Ji-Man Choi and Brandon Lowe three times each.

“It’s hard to put into words exactly what his performance meant to us tonight,” Houston manager AJ Hinch said of Cole. “But, man, he was good. What a game.”

“He was majestic today,” Adames added. “... He was commanding all the pitches tonight and making it tough.”

The Astros scratched across one run off Rays starter Blake Snell (0-1), with Bregman winning a seven-pitch confrontation by drilling a leadoff home run to left field in the fourth inning.

Houston had runners on the corners with no outs in the fifth yet failed to score against Rays right-hander Diego Castillo.

The Astros needed a bloop single to center from Maldonado in the seventh to double their 1-0 lead. Maldonado, who erased Adames as part of a strikeout-throw out double play in the sixth, drove home Yuli Gurriel after twice failing to deliver a safety squeeze bunt.

—Field Level Media

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