Carlos Carrasco survived an invasion of midges on the mound, pitching into the eighth inning while riding the support of a four-run fifth inning as the Cleveland Indians snapped a two-game skid with a 6-5 victory over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.
In scenes that instantly brought back memories of the infamous “bug game” during the 2007 ALDS, players dealt with the pesky flying insect all game long as hot and humid temperatures made for uncomfortable playing conditions on the field.
Houston put runners in scoring position in each of the first two innings, but Carrasco wriggled out of the jams, leaving a pair stranded at first and second with one out in the first and making the Astros waste a two-out double from Jason Castro the next inning.
The missed opportunities affected both sides early, as Cleveland got a one-out walk from Jason Kipnis and a single by Francisco Lindor in the bottom of the first, but Houston starter Doug Fister retired Mike Napoli on strikes and Jose Ramirez on a fly to center. The bottom of the order, however, picked up the top half in the second as the Indians took a lead with two outs. Rajai Davis, who reached on a fielder’s choice and advanced to second on a groundout, came in to score on a two-out single from Roberto Perez to put Cleveland on top.
The Indians took the lead right back in the bottom of the third, but may have run themselves out of the inning. Lindor was hit by a pitch to start the inning before an out from Napoli. Ramirez singled, putting two on for Chisenhall. He singled to center, scoring Lindor and advancing Ramirez to third, but Chisenhall was thrown out at second trying to stretch his hit for an extra base. Davis flew to left to end the rally.
The invasion of midges got to Carrasco in the fourth, as one flew in his eye while making his first pitch of the fourth to Yulieski Gurriel. The rookie singled the next pitch into right field and Colby Rasmus clobbered Carrasco’s first offering into the night to put Houston on top for the first time, 3-2.
Opportunity knocked again for Cleveland in the bottom of the frame, but Fister worked around a hit by pitch of Tyler Naquin and a two-out walk of Santana. In the fifth, they would capitalize with a big inning, chasing Fister from the mound.
Lindor singled to right to lead things off before Napoli entered Fister’s first pitch into orbit well up the bleacher seating in left to give the Indians a 4-3 lead. After an out by Ramirez, Chisenhall and Davis each reached on singles, bringing on Kevin Chapman from the bullpen. Manager Terry Francona played the matchup game, lifting the rookie Naquin for the lefty killer Brandon Guyer and the move paid off as the trade deadline acquisition doubled to center to plate a pair while extending Cleveland’s lead to 6-3. Jandel Gustave, the third pitcher of the inning, ended the bleeding with a pair of outs.
A two-out walk from Houston in the sixth was no threat and Carrasco threw the game’s first 1-2-3 inning to lead off the seventh. He would come back out for the eighth, retiring Altuve before a double to left from Evan Gattis. Andrew Miller was summoned from the ‘pen, but the rookie Gurriel hit a big two-run home run, the first of his MLB career, to cut the score to one run. Miller settled, striking out a pair to end the inning.
Cody Allen took the mound for the ninth and blew away the Astros with a steady diet of fastballs. Tony Kemp singled pinch-hitting for Jake Marisnick, but Allen proceeded to strike out the next three batters swinging. He threw 14 consecutive fastballs before breaking off a pair of curveballs to Altuve, who whiffed on a high fastball to end it.
Allen earned his 25th save of the season.
The Indians (80-58) hit the 80-win mark and improved to 7-2 on their ten-game homestand. They picked up a full game in the division with losses by both Detroit and Kansas City, as the pair lost divisional games against Chicago and Minnesota, respectively. Cleveland’s magic number dropped to 19 with its win and the Detroit loss.
Houston (74-65) fell a game back below the .500 mark on the road this season at 35-36.
CARRASCO SURVIVES HOMER
Carrasco (11-7, 3.15 ERA) was able to endure the sticky night and pitched into the eighth inning. He gave Cleveland seven and one-third innings of work and was charged with four runs on nine hits with a walk and five strikeouts. He left in position to earn a quality start until Miller allowed the runner he inherited from Carrasco to score on the eighth inning homer from Gurriel.
“It doesn’t feel good,” said Carrasco of his bug encounter. “That’s the first time this has happened to me but I had to come back and get people out.”
MILLER MATCHES CAREER-HIGH
Miller allowed his third homer of the season as an Indian, but did establish a personal milestone with his strikeout of Tyler White to end the eighth. It was the 103rd strikeout of his season (77 in New York, 26 with Cleveland), tying his career-best established in 2014 while pitching with Boston and Baltimore.
The 2016 season is the third straight season of 100+ strikeouts for the 31-year-old lefty.
ALL HE DOES IS HIT HIT HIT NO MATTER WHAT
Lindor reached base safely four times on the night, going 3-for-4 at the plate with three singles. He was also hit by a pitch and stole his 17th base of the season.
The multi-hit game was the 23rd time this season that Lindor has had three hits or more in one game, the most in the Majors this season and the most by an Indians player since Hal Trosky did it 24 times in the 1936 season.
FIFTH STARTER UPDATE
The Indians announced on Wednesday that Mike Clevinger will get the start for Cleveland against the Minnesota Twins on Saturday. He worked an inning and two-thirds on Monday in the bullpen game.
FISTER FIZZLES OUT IN THE FIFTH
Fister (12-11, 4.14) worked around early trouble, but could not escape the dangers presented in the fifth. He worked four and one-third innings, allowing six runs on nine hits with three walks and a pair of strikeouts. Five Astros relievers took his place throughout the rest of the night, giving up just three hits and a walk in the final three and two-thirds.
NO KEUCHEL, NOW NO CORREA
First, reigning Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel left the team to get his inflamed left shoulder looked at. Now, reigning AL Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa has headed back to Houston with the same ailment.
The Indians will look for the series split on Thursday afternoon in a getaway day matinee start. Right-hander Trevor Bauer (10-6, 3.70) will look to continue his reign of terror over Houston – he is 4-0 in four career starts against the Astros with a 0.67 ERA and 0.89 WHIP. Houston will send righty Joe Musgrove (2-3, 5.06) to the mound to make his first appearance against the Indians organization. The 23-year-old was selected at the end of the first round of the 2011 draft, the same one that Bauer was taken third overall. It is the second straight start for Bauer against a pitcher from his draft class after he outdueled Miami All-Star Jose Fernandez last Saturday.
Thursday’s series finale and season finale between the two clubs is scheduled for 12:10 PM ET from Progressive Field.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images