Three Home Runs Power Tribe to a Needed Win in Houston; Indians 5, Astros 3
Bob Toth | On 19, May 2017
Cleveland overcame an early two-run deficit with the power of the home run ball as three blasts paced the Indians to four runs and a 5-3 victory in Houston over the Astros on Friday night.
Trevor Bauer took the mound in the role of the stopper for the Tribe, losers of two straight coming in and facing a hot Astros team which had won four straight. Bauer’s good career marks against Houston would be tested early, however, as his 6-0 record in six starts against the Astros seemed to be in jeopardy early on. The game would be much closer than the Eastern Conference Finals action of the Indians’ downtown Cleveland neighbor, the NBA’s Cavaliers.
After Bauer struck out the first two batters in the home half of the first, Jose Altuve squeaked a single past Jason Kipnis at second. Carlos Correa drew a walk on five pitches, pushing Altuve into scoring position for Carlos Beltran, who knocked in the second baseman with a single to center to give Houston the early 1-0 lead.
The Indians stranded runners on the corners in the third against Charlie Morton and the Astros gave him an extra run to work with in the bottom half of the frame. Josh Reddick was dealt two straight strikes before turning on a pitch in and pulling it over the fence in right for a solo shot to extend the lead to two runs. Bauer did not buckle under the pressure and instead came back to strike out Altuve, Correa, and Beltran, sending a loud message.
Cleveland got on the board in the fourth, making up for some earlier missed opportunities. Carlos Santana walked on four straight pitches to start the inning. Edwin Encarnacion fouled off several Morton pitches and finally got one to his liking, lining a laser to left over the wall for a game-tying two-run homer.
Kipnis got in on the fun to start the fifth. With a strikeout and a single on his line against Morton, he relocated a 3-2 pitch to right, giving the Indians their first lead of the night. They would miss another run after a double from Francisco Lindor. He advanced to third on a groundout by Michael Brantley and attempted to score on a passed ball, but was caught at the plate on a quick recovery from catcher Brian McCann and the tag from Morton. Santana doubled several pitches later before Encarnacion grounded out.
The Indians added another in the sixth as Lonnie Chisenhall hit his fifth homer of the season with one down in the inning. Morton would leave one batter later after a walk to Bradley Zimmer, but James Hoyt got a pair of grounders to end the inning.
Bauer set down ten straight, including the leadoff man Altuve in the sixth, after the Reddick homer before Correa hit a deep drive to right of his own. Chisenhall leapt at the wall, but it was just out of his reach and affected by fans in the stands. The home run cut the Astros deficit in half and made it a 4-3 game. Bauer would leave after getting Beltran to foul out to end an eleven-pitch at bat, turning the game over to the Tribe bullpen.
Michael Feliz came on for Hoyt with two down in the seventh and struck out Encarnacion swinging, but would not have the same kind of luck in the eighth as Jose Ramirez tripled deep to center. He scored easily on a fly to center from the next batter, Chisenhall, whose second RBI of the contest gave the Indians a big insurance run heading into the Astros’ final two trips to the plate.
Andrew Miller relieved Bryan Shaw, who had retired all four batters that he faced after entering with two outs in the sixth. Miller had smooth sailing on the night, striking out pinch-hitter Marwin Gonzalez before a groundout by Altuve and a line out by Correa. Cody Allen entered for the ninth and needed just six pitches to close out the game, getting two pop outs and a line out in a rare game for the Tribe closer without a strikeout.
Bauer (4-4) earned his seventh win in seven chances against Houston with the victory. He worked five and two-thirds innings, giving up three runs on five hits. He walked just one while striking out nine, throwing 64 of 102 pitches for strikes. Morton (5-3), in his second career appearance against Cleveland, was hit with his third loss of the season. He was charged with four runs on eight hits with two walks, a hit batter, and five strikeouts. Three home run balls would be his undoing.
Allen’s quick and efficient ninth earned him his eleventh save of the season.
With the win, the Indians improved to 21-19 on the season to keep pace with the first place Minnesota Twins, who won in extra innings against Kansas City. They remain one game in back of the Twins in the AL Central. The Astros’ loss moved them to 29-13 on the season and ended their four-game winning streak.
The two clubs will pick things up again on Saturday afternoon with a 4:10 PM ET start from Minute Maid Park. The Astros will turn to right-hander Mike Fiers (1-1, 5.75 ERA), who has had plenty of run support from his teammates but has not given the Houston rotation much in-game depth in his starts. The Indians will call upon second-year right-hander Mike Clevinger (1-1, 2.61) to make his third start and his fourth appearance overall of the season. He pitched in relief on Wednesday, striking out the only batter that he faced on three pitches.
Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images