A two-run home run from Marwin Gonzalez in the bottom of the 16th inning off of “reliever” Cody Anderson gave the Houston Astros a 5-3 walk-off victory in the rubber match from Minute Maid Park on Wednesday afternoon.
Anderson entered the game in the 13th and retired nine straight batters in his first three innings of relief before Carlos Correa notched a first-pitch infield single off of the glove of the Indians pitcher to start the 16th, ending an 0-for-24 stretch at the plate for Houston batters. After a fly out to center from Colby Rasmus on his first pitch, Gonzalez jumped on the first pitch of his seventh at bat on the afternoon and lined a laser just over the wall in right field for the game-winning shot.
It was Anderson’s first MLB relief appearance and his first professionally since 2012 while with the Lake County Captains. The Indians had exhausted the rest of their bullpen before Terry Francona handed the ball to his struggling starter.
“He threw the ball really well. Mickey [Callaway] and I were talking, from the things we’ve talked to him about, just watching him come out and attack, it’ll serve him well. He’s going to be just fine,” said Francona in the postgame press conference. “You get into an extra inning on the road, you’re a pitch away from going home and that hurts. But I’m really pleased with the way he attacked with his pitches. He’s going to be okay.”
The Indians (16-15) dropped the game and series to fall to 0-3 in extra innings and 14-5 when scoring the first run of the game. The Astros (14-21) won their first extra inning game of the season in three tries and will hit the road with an even 10-10 record at Minute Maid Park.
Many, many innings earlier, Cleveland scored first in the third inning off of Houston starter Doug Fister after wasting singles in each of the first two innings. Lonnie Chisenhall singled to left center to start the third and moved to second on a throwing error from Fister. A groundout from Juan Uribe moved Chisenhall to third and, after a groundout from Rajai Davis, he scored on a clutch two-out single to left from Jason Kipnis.
The Indians made it 2-0 in the fourth as Mike Napoli homered to left.
Houston returned the favor in the bottom half against Danny Salazar after the first two men were retired. George Springer blasted a 2-0 pitch to left to cut the Indians lead to 2-1. The Astros had stranded eight men on base in the first three innings against the Tribe’s righty, leaving the bags loaded in the first and second before leaving runners on first and second in the third.
Cleveland got another runner on base in the sixth after six straight groundouts against Fister. Kipnis notched his third single in as many at bats to lead off, but was erased on a one-out double play grounder by Napoli to end the brief threat.
Tommy Hunter took over on the mound for Salazar in the sixth and got two quick outs before the top of the order turned over and struck for blood. The always dangerous Jose Altuve doubled to deep left center and after a walk by Springer, Correa singled to center to score Altuve with the tying run. Kyle Crockett relieved and walked Rasmus to load the bases, but Zach McAllister took over and retired Gonzalez on a comebacker to end the inning, the third time the Astros had left them full in the ball game.
The Astros took their first lead the next inning after Luis Valbuena singled to right center and moved to second on a sacrifice. Max Stassi struck out against McAllister, but Preston Tucker delivered a two-out single to left to knock in the go-ahead run.
With the game on the line against reliable Houston closer Luke Gregerson in the top of the ninth, Napoli doubled to deep right with one out, beating the throw from Carlos Gomez at second. Carlos Santana, hitting just .115 (3-for-26) entering the at bat with runners in scoring position, defied the statistics with a triple to deep right center, scoring Napoli from second on his first three-bagger of the year to tie the game and deal a rare blown save to Gregerson. Back-to-back grounders to short ended the inning, but the score was tied at three.
The Indians squandered opportunities in the tenth, eleventh, and 13th innings. They got runners on the corners with two outs in the tenth on the fourth hit of the afternoon from Kipnis, but Lindor grounded out to second. Napoli led off the next inning with a single and stayed put at first as the next three hitters went down in order. In the 13th, Kipnis notched a career-high tying fifth hit of the game, a single to lead off the inning, before the Indians were retired in order.
Kipnis last had a five-hit game in his rookie season on August 10, 2011, against Detroit. He was robbed of a potential sixth hit in the 15th on a fantastic play by Correa at short.
Michael Feliz, the eighth Astros pitcher on the afternoon, worked three scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out five to earn his first win of the season.
Effectively wild was a term used to describe Trevor Bauer’s start on Tuesday night (and really, most of his starts throughout his career). It fit Salazar’s start on Wednesday to a T, as the Tribe right-hander tossed 106 pitches in just five innings on the mound. He dodged several big jams and allowed just one run on four hits, but walked six while striking out ten Astros batters. The homer to Springer in the fourth inning was the first allowed by Salazar since his first start of the season.
“He just didn’t command. He pitched out of the first three innings and there were guys everywhere,” said Francona. “It just got, after five innings, that there were so many high leverage, high intensity innings because he wasn’t commanding. But he kept them off the scoreboard. It was really erratic.”
Salazar has now allowed 22 hits on the year and walked 22 batters. The six walks from the Indians starter was a career high, surpassing the five he issued in a win over the New York Yankees on August 12, 2015. He struck out eight in that game and similarly allowed just one run on four hits.
FISTER STRONG IN NO-DECISION
Fister completed seven innings and left as the pitcher of record after Houston took the lead in the bottom of the inning. He allowed two runs on six hits, struck out three, and walked no one while throwing just 89 pitches.
Fister now has a 5-3 record and a 2.72 ERA in 15 career starts against Cleveland.
The homer from Springer in the fourth was the 1,500th home run by the Astros in their home park, including the postseason. He was also responsible for the team’s 1,400th homer at Minute Maid Park, which he hit on June 15th of last season.
Springer went 1-for-4 on the afternoon with the mammoth home run while drawing four of the Astros’ 12 walks.
LEAVING A SMALL VILLAGE ON BASE
The Astros left 13 runners on base through the first seven innings. They left the bases loaded in the first, second, and sixth innings. They stranded two more in the tenth and two more in scoring position in the eleventh.
None of the dozen Astros base runners given free passes by Indians pitching came around to score. The Indians, meanwhile, drew just one walk, a two-out free pass by Santana in the 13th.
“HIS RALLY CAP IS A GOLDEN SOMBRERO”
Gomez had a bad time at the plate again on Wednesday for Houston. He was 1-for-5 with four strikeouts at the plate. Gonzalez had a hat trick of his own, but he goes home the hero with his walk-off blast.
Indians catcher Yan Gomes was hitless for the series and is in the midst of an 0-for-20 slide and even uglier 2-for-42 skid. Lindor was notably pressing, going 1-for-15 in the series and 0-for-7 in Wednesday’s finale. Davis was also 0-for-7 out of the leadoff spot Wednesday.
RAMIREZ AND BRANTLEY WATCH FROM BENCH
Starting left fielder Michael Brantley and super utility man Jose Ramirez were both absent from the starting lineup for Wednesday’s series finale against Houston. Brantley continued to nurse his surgically repaired right shoulder and will be re-evaluated prior to Friday’s game in Cleveland against the Minnesota Twins.
Ramirez had his right hand and wrist wrapped up prior to Wednesday’s game after being hit by a pitch during the Tribe’s win on Tuesday. He was x-rayed but nothing of note was revealed. The wrap was later removed after a visit to the trainer’s room and left with his ring and pinky fingers on his left hand taped together after jamming the fingers on a stolen base attempt Tuesday.
Ramirez entered the game as a pinch-runner for Uribe in the eighth and took over at third defensively. He managed three at bats, despite the late entry, but saw just six pitches on the afternoon.
Thursday is an off day for the Tribe before they start a three-game series at Progressive Field against the Minnesota Twins, who are in a full blown tailspin. Josh Tomlin (5-0, 3.72 ERA) will start game one of the series on Friday. Ricky Nolasco (1-1, 4.70) will take the mound for the Twins.
First pitch from Cleveland on Friday is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images