Astros, Dodgers move on, Tribe, Braves headed home

By HAL McCOY

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave, wondering which made the loudest crash, our garage door when a spring broke and the door smashed to the floor or the Cleveland Indians hitting the turf in their three-and-flee ALDS loss to the Houston Astros?

—After accomplishing so much during the 162-game regular season, the Indians did the ol’ 1-2-3 an out, going home for the winter without winning a single post-season game.

—The Astros, with their strong hitting, their strong starting pitcher and their strong bullpen, seem poised to repeat as World Series champions.

With an 11-2 ravaging of the Tribe Monday afternoon in Progressive Field, the Astros completed a three-game sweep of the ALDS. Playing on the road certainly doesn’t bother Houston. The Astros were 57-24 on the road this season, third best road record all-time for a season.

Remember the 1999 Cincinnati Reds. They were 51-30 on the road and I dubbed them The Big Road Machine. But the Reds finished second that year to the Astros.

Starter Dallas Keuchel held the Tribe to two run and four hits over four innings. Then the Astros’ bullpen locked it up with no runs and two hits over the next three innings before Cleveland scored a useless run in the ninth on a wild pitch.

On the other side, the Astros offense produced 13 hits, three by leadoff hitter George Springer that included two home runs, and two hits by No. 2 hitter Jose Altuve. Springer’s two homers gave him 10 in the post-season, an all-time franchise record.

And his eight home runs in his last nine post-season games, dating back to last season, That ties the MLB record with Reggie Jackson (1977-78), Jim Thome (1998-99 and Carlos Beltran (2004)

—Remember how good the Cleveland bullpen was in 2016, led by Andrew Miller? Well, the Tribe was swept in this year’s ALDS because the bullpen is leakier than a faucet with a missing washer. And Miller led the way in mediocrity.

—Thanks to a Francisco Lindor home run, the Tribe led, 2-1, after six innings. Cleveland starter Mike Clevenger, hair flowing in the breeze, held the Astros to one run and three hits over five innings, striking out nine.

Indians manager Terry Francona turned to his bullpen and it was like turning an open peanut jar upside down. The peanuts — in this case, runs — came pouring out.

—The Astros batted around in the seventh against Trevor Bauer, who made two throwing errors in the inning, and Miller and scored three runs to take a 4-2 lead. Then came the eighth and Houston scored six runs in the eighth off Cody Allen and Brad Hand. The last three of the inning came on a three-run home run by Carlos Correa, who finally got in on the fun after starting the series 0 for 9.

—In the National League, the fully-loaded Mercedes of the league, the Los Angeles Dodgers, are on a path to repeat their World Series appearance of last year against the Astros.

—The Dodgers came from 2-1 down ealry in the game to record a 6-2 victory over the youthful Atlanta Braves in Atlanta, 6-2, eliminating the Braves in the NLDS three games to one.

—Pinch-hitters were the early stars in this one. The Dodgers trailed, 1-0, in the bottom of the fourth. With runners on second and third and two outs, Atlanta manager Brian Snitker sent up pinch-hitter Kurt Suzuki to bat for start pitcher Mike Foltynewicz. Suzuki drove a sharp single into left field for two runs and a 2-1 Atlanta lead.

Suzuki’s hit was a rarity for the Braves in this series. His hit was only the second in four games for the Braves with runners in scoring position. The other was Ronald Acuna’s grand slam home run in Game 3.

—The lead lasted until the talent-stuffed Dodgers batted in the sixth. With runners on third and first, Yasiel Puig stole second, putting two runners in scoring position. Pinch-hitter David Freese singled up the middle for two runs and a 3-2 LA lead.

—It got away from the Braves in the seventh when one of LA’s trade deadline acquisitions made the trade pay off. Manny Machado, acquired from the Baltimore Orioles, doubled home a run early in the game to give LA a 1-0 lead.

In the seventh, with two men on base, Machado reached the left field seats with a three-run home run and a precarious 3-2 lead turned into a comfortable 6-2 advantage.

—The Dodgers move on to the National League Championship Series, a best-of-seven against the Milwaukee Brewers, with the first two games scheduled for Milwaukee’s Miller Park.

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