The Associated PressCLEVELAND (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 a 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.
BoSox ride 1st playoff cycle to win
NEW YORK (AP) — Brock Holt became the first player to hit for the cycle in a postseason game and the Boston Red Sox routed the New York Yankees 16-1 to grab a 2-1 lead in their best-of-five AL Division Series.
Andrew Benintendi lined a three-run double and Holt tripled home two more in a seven-run fourth inning that quickly turned the latest playoff matchup between these longtime rivals into a laugher. Handed a big early lead, Nathan Eovaldi shut down his former team during New York’s most lopsided defeat in 396 postseason games.
Boston battered an ineffective Luis Severino and silenced a charged-up Yankee Stadium crowd that emptied out fast on a night when Red Sox rookie manager Alex Cora made all the right moves.