Indians Hold Off Several Threats to Defeat Astros; Indians 7, Astros 6
Bob Toth | On 26, Apr 2017
No Indians lead felt safe on Wednesday night, but the Houston Astros ran out of innings to catch up as Cleveland claimed a 7-6 win from Progressive Field.
The Indians (11-9) got on top in the first inning and never surrendered the advantage, but they needed several additional scoring outbursts throughout the night to fend off the Astros (14-7), who kept it within striking distance while giving their potent offense a chance to get the last big hit that it would need.
For the Indians’ sake, that final knock on the door never came.
Lance McCullers Jr. was on the mound for Houston, making his first career start against the Indians. While he may have been an unfamiliar arm for the Tribe to contend with, one would have never known as Cleveland got to work early as Carlos Santana started the home half of the first with a single. A walk to Francisco Lindor set the stage for a big hit from Michael Brantley, his first of several on the night, as his double to center scored Santana and put two in scoring position for Edwin Encarnacion, who made it a 2-0 lead with a sacrifice fly to right. Jose Ramirez kept the rally going with a double to left-center that scored Brantley and Cleveland had a 3-0 lead after one. It could have been even more as Jason Kipnis singled to put runners on the corners with one out, but Lonnie Chisenhall grounded into a double play, the fourth in ten innings by the Indians against the Astros.
Trevor Bauer struck out four through the first two innings, but had to work around some trouble in the third. A double play ball by Nori Aoki erased a Yulieski Gurriel single to start the frame and a single and a walk put two on with two outs for Carlos Beltran, but the battle went Bauer’s way with a 3-2 strikeout swinging to leave the score 3-0.
The Astros would not let the next scoring opportunity pass them by in the fourth. Brian McCann doubled and one out later got to trot home on a monstrous shot over the center field wall by Evan Gattis to cut the Cleveland lead to one.
After stranding a pair in the home half of the fourth, the Indians struck quickly in the fifth with Brantley again delivering a big blow. Santana walked and Lindor doubled to left off of McCullers before Brantley singled, driving in both runners as Cleveland extended its lead back to three at 5-2.
Houston got to Bauer again in the sixth as another big blast kept the game close. Carlos Correa drew a five-pitch walk and on the next pitch, McCann sent a drive deep to right to make it a 5-4 deficit for the Astros.
The Indians responded with a pair of runs in the bottom half of the inning to get both runs back. Former friend of the feather Tony Sipp took over for McCullers to start the inning and ran into trouble quickly as Kipnis singled to center, advanced to second on a wild pitch, and moved to third on a sacrifice by Chisenhall. After a walk to Abraham Almonte, Sipp exited for Michael Feliz, who threw a wild pitch of his own to move Almonte into scoring position. He recovered to strike out Roberto Perez for the second out, but Santana delivered with a two-run double to right to give the Indians a 7-4 lead.
Andrew Miller worked around a bases loaded, one-out jam in the seventh, but Bryan Shaw allowed the Astros to inch closer the next frame. After a groundout by Gattis, Alex Bregman reached on an error by Shaw. A flyout by Gurriel was good for the second out, but Aoki reached on an infield single and the pair would score on a double to the wall in left-center by Marwin Gonzalez to make it a 7-6 game.
Manager Terry Francona called on his closer Cody Allen for the four-out save and he got the job done in order, getting Josh Reddick to ground to short to end the top of the eighth, Beltran to fly to left to start the ninth, and Correa and McCann to strike out swinging to end the game. It was the fourth save in four tries for Allen this season.
BIG BLASTS DON’T KNOCK OUT BAUER
Bauer earned his second win of the season and improved to 6-0 lifetime against Houston.
Two of the six hits that he allowed on the night provided all four runs of offense surrendered to the Astros lineup. He walked a pair and struck out eight, using 108 pitches (64 strikes) to get through the outing.
BRANTLEY HITS IN TEN STRAIGHT
Brantley’s big day at the plate provided the Indians with three of their seven runs on the night. With two hits, he extended his hitting streak to ten straight contests and is now hitting .318 on the season with a .384 on-base percentage while working as the Tribe’s number three hitter.
In addition to his ten-game hitting streak, Brantley has hit safely in 14 of his 17 games this season.
McCULLERS STRUGGLES AWAY FROM HOME AGAIN
Making his first start against Cleveland, McCullers gave the Astros five innings, but he was tagged for five runs in that span. He allowed seven hits and walked three while striking out five to fall to 2-1 on the season.
The 23-year-old has made 18 starts on the road in his career and owns a 3-9 record lifetime with a 5.32 ERA and a 1.60 WHIP.
ALTUVE HELD OUT, HERNANDEZ TO DL
Jose Altuve got a day of rest on Wednesday, one night after a scary and violent collision in right field at Progressive Field when he collided with Teoscar Hernandez, the second-year outfielder just called up earlier in the day from Triple-A, while chasing after a bloop shot from Indians catcher Yan Gomes.
Hernandez was placed on the disabled list Wednesday with a bruised left knee. Outfielder Tony Kemp got the call from Triple-A Fresno to replace him on the roster.
The Indians and Astros will meet one final time in Cleveland with Thursday’s 6:10 PM ET first pitch.
Cleveland will send out the second former AL Cy Young Award winner to pitch in the series as Corey Kluber (2-1, 4.28 ERA) will take the mound in the rubber match, looking to send the Indians to their first home series win of the season. Kluber is coming off of a complete game three-hitter over Chicago in his last start. Houston will look to right-hander Mike Fiers (0-1, 5.40) to earn another series win for the Astros. He knocked out the Tribe twice in two attempts in 2016, but he has struggled in the early going this season and has been victimized by six long balls in a span of 15 innings pitched this year.
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images