They grow up so fast.
It was just two years ago Corey Kluber made his second start of his career. In his first two big league starts, he allowed nine runs. Houston’s Nick Tropeano made his second career start on Tuesday night and they should hope he matures as quickly as Kluber because two years later he’s carving his name into the Indians’ record book.
Kluber struck out 14 Astros, on the way to moving himself into the 12th spot all-time in Indians’ history for strikeouts in a season. The Tribe ace—and Cy Young candidate—has struck out more batters than any Tribesman since Sam McDowell in 1970. He set down two each in the first six innings and the Wahoo Warriors used timely hitting and a two-run homer from Yan Gomes to give the Indians a 4-2 victory in Minute Maid Park.
Cleveland took the early lead against the rookie Tropeano in the top of the first inning. Michael Bourn singled to left field and after Jose Ramirez struck out, Michael Brantley singled to center field to put a pair on with just one out. With runners on the corners, Carlos Santana grounded to second base, allowing Bourn to score from third base and give the Indians a 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately, the Astros answered right back against the Indians veteran of 33 starts this year in Kluber. Robbie Grossman walked to start bottom of the first. He was erased on a fielder’s choice when Jose Altuve grounded to third base. Dexter Fowler struck out swinging and it looked like Kluber would get out of the jam, but Chris Carter singled to advance Altuve to second base and Marwin Gonzalez singled to bring him home and tie the game at one apiece.
After not tallying a hit in the second or third innings against Tropeano, the Indians took the lead in the top of the fourth. After two outs were gone in the inning, Lonnie Chisenhall singled and was able to score all the way from first base when Yan Gomes singled and Grossman misplayed the ball in left field. The error put the Indians up, 2-1.
It looked like Houston would answer back again, when they loaded the bases with one out in the bottom half of the inning, but Kluber struck out Alex Presley and Gregorio Petit to leave them loaded. Kluber struck out a pair in each of his seven innings.
Tropeano (1-1) lasted just five innings, allowing just two runs but needing 101 pitches to earn his 15 outs. He allowed only one earned run on four hits, two walks and four strikeouts.
Left-hander Darin Downs came on in relief in the bottom of the sixth inning, but did not fare well against the Tribe. Carlos Santana walked and then with two outs, Gomes hit a line drive into the Crawford boxes in left field. Gomes’ 19th home run of the season put the Feisty Featherheads up 4-1.
Kluber (16-9) set a career high with 14 strikeouts in a game and moving him to 245 whiffs on the season. He’s now just one strikeout behind Herb Score for 11th all-time in strikeouts in a single season in Tribe history. His 14 strikeouts in a game is the most since Bartolo Colon struck out 14 Toronto Blue Jays in May 1998. Kluber allowed one run on seven hits and two walks in 110 pitches. Kluber struggled to a 5.45 ERA in 12 starts in 2012 and did not make the Indians original 25-man roster in 2013, but has asserted himself as the staff ace in 2014.
Only Jose Altuve was able to avoid striking out in Houston’s lineup. Altuve had two hits, tying and breaking the Astros’ all-time single season hits record, previously held by Craig Biggio.
Bryan Shaw pitched two-thirds of an inning, allowing a run before giving way to Cody Allen. Allen pitched the final inning and one-third for his 21st save and to secure the win for Cleveland and Kluber.
Cleveland will try to keep their winning ways going on Wednesday evening when Carlos Carrasco (7-5, 2.86) takes the mound. Carrasco will be looking to rebound from his first loss since returning to the starting rotation. Houston will counter with right-hander Brett Oberholtzer (5-11, 4.51).
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