HOUSTON -- Astros right-hander Gerrit Cole became the second player in MLB history to record at least 12 strikeouts without a walk in a postseason game, guiding Houston to a 3-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night.
A day after Justin Verlander shut down Cleveland in Game 1 of the American League Division Series, Cole was just as dominant, pitching seven innings while limiting the Indians to three hits and one run to give Houston a 2-0 series lead.
The last pitcher to post at least 12 strikeouts without a walk in the playoffs was Hall of Famer Tom Seaver, who fanned 13 with the New York Mets in Game 1 of the 1973 National League Championship Series.
The 12 strikeouts marked a career postseason high for Cole, and tied him with Nolan Ryan for the third-most strikeouts in a single playoff game in Astros franchise history. It also marked the most strikeouts against Cleveland (including postseason) since Verlander struck out 12 Indians batters in 2016 as a member of the Detroit Tigers.
Cole became the fifth Astros pitcher with at least 10 strikeouts in a postseason game, a list which also includes Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Ryan and Mike Scott, who holds the franchise record with 14 in the 1986 NLCS.
Cole seemed appreciative but muted in his reaction when addressing the media.
"It's pretty cool," Cole said. "Maybe I'll have a glass of wine to celebrate after this is all done."
His teammates, meanwhile, were effusive in their praise for their star flamethrower.
"He's an All-Star; elite, elite, elite pitcher," third baseman Alex Bregman said. "He was dominant. Fastball was great. Breaking balls were great. But just his demeanor on the mound, his competitiveness -- that's why he is Gerrit Cole."
The Astros took their first lead of the game in the bottom of the sixth inning, when Marwin Gonzalez smacked a two-run double to right field off Cleveland reliever Andrew Miller. Even with Cole nearing 90 pitches and a lengthy delay between innings, Houston manager A.J. Hinch said he never questioned whether he would send him back out for the seventh.
"I didn't have any doubt I was going to send him out for the seventh," Hinch said with a grin. "He was so good today. It's hard to take the ball out of his hand when he's so dominant. He was focused. He was emotional. I loved the emotion off the mound when he's getting big strikeout after big strikeout. He used all his pitches. He was creative. I mean, what else can I say? He was awesome."
Houston will look to close out the series Monday when Keuchel is slated to start opposite Mike Clevinger in Cleveland.
Verlander struck out seven over 5⅓ innings in Friday's series opener for the defending World Series champions. The Astros' aces have been so good that even franchise luminaries are taking notice.
"Verlander and Cole? That's as good a one-two punch as there is in baseball right now," said former Astros pitcher Roy Oswalt, who was on hand Saturday to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.