Indians starter Trevor Bauer gave his club seven scoreless innings and his offense gave him a handful of runs to work with as Cleveland blanked the Houston Astros on Tuesday night, 4-0, in a four-hit shutout to even the series at one win each.
It wasn’t quite the near no-hitter that Bauer and the bullpen threw in his first start last season in Houston, but the results were the same as the Indians gave him some early run support and kept the Astros away from home plate once again, despite one Houston base runner in eight of the nine innings of the night.
Bauer is now 4-0 in his career against the Astros and dropped his career ERA against the club to 0.67. He has not allowed a run over 13 innings in two starts at Minute Maid Park.
The Indians gave Bauer the early lead in the second after Mike Napoli singled to center to start the inning against rookie Chris Devenski. A walk from Carlos Santana and a sacrifice by Jose Ramirez put two in scoring position with one out for Juan Uribe, who delivered an RBI on a groundout back to the pitcher. Lonnie Chisenhall made it a 2-0 game with a double to deep right to knock in Santana and move Uribe to third. A strikeout from Chris Gimenez and a groundout to short by Rajai Davis ended the scoring opportunity, but Bauer had a lead he could work with and would.
“He’s taking some better swings. The ball he hit to right field today he really squared it up. It’s nice to see that,” said Indians manager Terry Francona when asked about Chisenhall’s key double. “We’ll take offensive input everywhere. We know we’re going to need it, so it’s good to see him look like he’s getting a little more comfortable.”
Houston could not string together a long inning against Bauer. They got a runner on base in six of seven innings against him, but only once got a base runner into scoring position. George Springer’s one-out walk in the first was erased on a caught stealing. Tyler White was stranded at first after a two-out walk in the second. Jose Altuve’s two-out single in the third was wiped clean on a fielder’s choice by Springer to end the inning. Colby Rasmus, after a one-out single, was forced at second on a fielder’s choice to end the fourth. Luis Valbuena was the only runner to reach scoring position, as he doubled with one out in the fifth and moved to third on a groundout from catcher Erik Kratz, but Altuve struck out swinging to leave him there in the two-run game. Springer was left at first after a leadoff walk in the sixth and Bauer worked his first runner-less inning in the seventh, his final inning of the night.
The Indians got some insurance for Bauer and the bullpen in the eighth when Jason Kipnis tripled to center with one out and scored on a single to center from Lindor. He would come around to score from first on a double deep off of the tall wall in left from Napoli to double the Indians lead to 4-0.
Bryan Shaw worked a scoreless eighth, allowing a leadoff single to pinch-hitter Marwin Gonzalez, who advanced no further than second. Cody Allen worked a three-batter ninth, giving up a one-out walk to Preston Tucker, but eliminating him on a 4-6-3 double play ball to end the game.
The Indians (16-14) keep their hold on second place in the American League Central Division and evened up the series with the Astros at a game apiece. They are now back to the .500 mark on the road this season at 8-8. Houston (13-21) drops a game below even at home at 9-10 on the season and continues to look up from the cellar of the AL West.
BAUER SETTLING INTO ROTATION
Indians starter Bauer (3-0, 3.86 ERA) looks to be settling into his spot back in the Cleveland rotation. He worked seven scoreless innings in his continued dominance of the Astros, allowing just three hits and three walks on the night. He struck out a season-high seven on 104 pitches, 60 of which were for strikes. He threw first pitch strikes to 15 of the 26 batters he faced.
“Early on, he wasn’t commanding like he wanted to, but his stuff was real good,” said Francona in the postgame interview. “He opened up the plate by pitching in and then he got into the middle of the game and really got into a rhythm. We scored two and left the chance to finish that inning. In a game where a mistake can cost you, he didn’t make any and I think after seven though, he was about wiped out. I was going out to shake his hand and he was coming towards me.
“It’s easy to tell guys to work quick. When they’re doing it, it’s a pretty good chance they know what they want to throw, they feel good and they get it and go. I think everything works better when the guy on the mound is getting it and throwing it and throwing it over the plate.”
DEVENSKI QUALITY IN A LOSS
Rookie Astros starter Devenski (0-2, 1.72) made his third career start and was dealt his second loss despite a strong quality start in his ninth appearance at the MLB level. He allowed two runs on five hits and struck out five while logging a career-high six and two-thirds innings on the mound.
He has yet to appear in an Astros win this season.
LENGTHY FIRST AB FOR LINDOR
Indians shortstop Lindor wore out Devenski in his first at bat of the night, but came away from the effort with a double play ball to his credit. He fouled off eleven pitches and saw a total of 15 pitches in the at bat before lining out sharply to White at first base. The Houston rookie made the catch of the liner near the bag and easily retired Kipnis from his leadoff position for an unassisted double play.
“It was a good at bat,” said Francona. “He ended up lining out. It looked like it had a chance to go into the corner and maybe be a double, score a run. I love when our guys have at bats like that. It can’t do anything but help. But guys still have to hit.”
After the two through five hitters combined to go 0-for-14 with five strikeouts in Monday’s loss, the Indians got the bulk of their production from those same lineup spots. Kipnis and Napoli each had two hits and an extra base hit apiece. Lindor singled and Santana walked and all four men scored runs as the quartet went 5-for-15 with two RBI, four runs scored, a walk, and just two strikeouts.
Prior to Tuesday’s game, the Astros placed catcher Jason Castro on the paternity list as he and his wife welcomed their first child, a baby boy, into the world early that morning. He will miss the remainder of the series.
Former Indians reliever Tony Sipp was on the paternity list last weekend for the birth of a daughter.
Starting left fielder Michael Brantley was on the bench for game two of the series with the Astros and will remain there on Wednesday in the series finale, giving him three full days of rest before the Indians return home for their brief homestand starting Friday. Francona feels his All-Star is not bouncing back after games as well as the club would like.
“I’m kind of kicking myself a little bit,” said Francona prior to the game. “I think we might have gone a little too far, too much, too fast. I didn’t want to do that and I think we probably did.”
In the rubber match, right-hander Danny Salazar (3-2, 1.91) will take the ball for Francona against former foe, right-hander Doug Fister (3-3, 4.54). Fister is in his return to the AL after spending the last two seasons in Washington with the Nationals. He is 5-3 in 14 career starts against Cleveland with a 2.73 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and one complete game. He last faced the Indians in 2013 while with the Detroit Tigers.
Game time is scheduled for 2:10 PM ET from Minute Maid Park.
Photo: AP Photo/Eric Christian Smith