CLEVELAND — With little fanfare, the defending World Series champion Houston Astros swept past the Cleveland Indians on Monday to advance to the American League Championship Series.
The Astros came from behind in Game 3 to smother the Cleveland Indians, 11-3, on a sunny day at Progressive Field, and clinched the best-of-five division series while much of the baseball world was focused on the other American League division series.
The Red Sox and Yankees are contesting the more intriguing matchup of old rivals, but Houston may still be baseball’s best overall team.
The A.L.C.S. won’t begin until Saturday, so the Astros will have to go four days without playing. But little seems to faze this team.
Cleveland went ahead on Monday, 2-1, on Francisco Lindor’s bases-empty home run in the fifth inning, but Houston grabbed the lead in the seventh, thanks mostly to poor pitching and throwing by Trevor Bauer, the Indians’ starter-turned-relief pitcher.
Bauer entered the game in the sixth, but recorded only one out in the seventh, making two throwing errors, walking a batter and giving up a two-run double to Marwin Gonzalez before trudging off the mound.
George Springer hit two home runs and set the new Astros record for most career postseason homers with 10, and Carlos Correa hit a three-run homer in the 8th to send many of the 37,257 fans streaming for the exits. Alex Bregman drove in Tony Kemp with a single for one more in the ninth, and the Indians got a consolation run when Edwin Encarnacion scored on a wild pitch. But Melky Cabrera grounded out on the next at-bat, ending the series.
The Astros dominated the first two games of the series in Houston, winning Game 1, 7-2, and Game 2, 3-1.
Houston won 103 games in the regular season, second only to the Red Sox, who won 108. If the Yankees beat Boston in that division series, the A.L.C.S. would begin in Houston on Saturday. If Boston wins, the A.L.C.S. would open in Boston.
Lengthy periods of inactivity are often considered detrimental to baseball teams, as players risk losing their sharpness and rhythm. But last year the Astros thrived after two periods of rest. Following the end of the regular season that year, they had three days of rest before beating the Red Sox in four games.
The they had another three-day layoff before the A.L.C.S., and eventually beat the Yankees in seven games.