The Real McCoy

Hall of Fame baseball writer Hal McCoy shares his thoughts on the Cincinnati Reds
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McCoy: Astros spoil dream pitching matchup in Game 1 win over Indians

UNSOLICITED OBSERVATIONS from The Man Cave while an exterminator rids the premises of yellow jackets, an exterminator allergic to bee stings. Go figure.

—It was Rembrandt vs. Picasso. It was Chopin vs. Beethoven. It was Einstein vs. Newton. It was Nureyev vs. Baryishnikov. It was McCoy vs Hatfield (well, let’s not get too carried away here).

It actually was a dream pitching matchup in Game 1 of the Cleveland Indians-Houston Astros American League Division series: Houston’s Justin Verlander against Cleveland’s Corey Kluber.

Could either team score? They did, but mostly it was Houston.

—Pundits gave Kluber, a 20-game winner, the edge because 16-game winner Verlander was 2-and-10 in 16 career starts against the Indians with an earned run average north of 5.00.
But Kluber gave up three home runs in 4 2/3 innings and was done. Verlander was Vintage Verlander for five innings — no runs, not hits. By the time the Tribe scored, they were four runs down late in the game and Houston scored a 7-2 victory to take a 1-0 lead in the ALDS.

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—Kluber had hit one batter all year, but he hit two in the second inning then escaped with an inning-ending double play.

—Verlander struck out the side in the third, nothing special. For the season Verlander struck out 290 in 214 innings. Kluber? He struck out 222 in 215 innings, one of four Tribe pitchers to strike out more than 200 this season.

—Neither team had a hit after three innings against the two Pitching Masters, but Houston’s Alex Bregman led the fourth with a home run into the left field Crawford Boxes for a 1-0 Astros lead. On the other side, the Tribe had no hits and Verlander had retired the last 10 he faced.

After Bregman’s home run, Kluber issued a walk and a single. That brought up Josh Reddick, with runners on second and first with two outs. Reddick finished the season with one hit in his last 23 at bats with runners in scoring position. Now he is 2 for 24 after a run-scoring single to right field that made it 2-0.

—While Kluber struggled a bit with command and control and needed 35 pitches to finish the fifth inning, Verlander retired 15 of the first 16 (one walk) and retired 13 in a row through five innings.

—Kluber gave up back-to-back home runs by George Springer and Jose (Little Napolean) Altuve to start the fifth to give Verlander a 4-0 lead. Kluber was done and so was the Tribe. Kluber only gave up only six hits, but three landed in the up-close Crawford Boxes in left field.

—The Indians became extremely patient in the sixth inning and were rewarded. They rid themselves on Verlander and they scored two runs.

Yan Gomes began the inning with a nine-pitch at bat that concluded with a sharp single to right, ending Verlander’s no-hitter. As Gomes stood on first base, Verlander tipped his cap to him.

Jason Kipnis had a nine-pitch at bat that ended with a 3-and-2 called strikeout on a 97 miles per hour fastball that appeared low. Francisco Lindor singled for the Tribe’s second hit. When Verlander walked Michael Brantley on the eighth pitch, another 3-and-2 count to load the bases with one out, Verlander’s day was done.

Verlander was replaced with Ryan Pressly. Pressly’s first pitch was a wild one that scored a run. A second run scored a ground ball by Jose Ramirez, then Pressly ended it by striking out Edwin Encarnacion.

—Astros catcher Martin Maldonado got into the spray-the-Crawford Boxes act in the seventh inning when he dropped one into those seats off once unhittable Cleveland closer Cody Allen (no longer the closer), the fourth Houston solo home run and a 5-2 lead.

Trevor Bauer replaced Miller after Miller gave up a single to George Springer and Bauer gave up a run-scoring single to Alex Bregman to make it 6-2.

—The Astros added a point of emphasis with a run in the eighth and Robert Osuna closed it out for the Astros in the ninth. The Indians had no runs and one hit off the Astros bullpen of Ryan Pressly, former starter Lance McCullers Jr., and Osuna over the last 3 2/3 innings.

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