Dallas Keuchel continued his incredible start to the season, looking like his old Cy Young Award winning self, and Josh Reddick supported him both at the plate and in the field as the Houston Astros defeated the Cleveland Indians, 4-2, on Tuesday night.
The Astros staff ace won for the fourth time in five tries to give Houston 14 wins on the season. He used a heavy diet of pitches low in the strike zone to force the Indians to keep the ball on the ground for the majority of the game and three double play balls got him out of several jams that he encountered. The win, however, was overshadowed by a scary collision in right field in the bottom of the eighth inning involving superstar second baseman Jose Altuve.
The veteran and heart of the Astros club collided with outfielder Teoscar Hernandez while in heated pursuit of a fly ball off of the bat of Yan Gomes. Altuve appeared to be nearly closelined by his teammate, who was just recalled from Triple-A Fresno prior to the game. Hernandez suffered at minimum a knee contusion, but the extent of the injury was not known just following the game. Both players remained on the ground for several minutes while trainers and coaches came to their aid. Altuve was eventually able to return to his feet and walk off under his own power, but an attempt by Hernandez failed and he needed a cart to remove him from the playing field while not placing any weight on his left leg.
The 14-6 ‘Stros have already dealt with several injuries in their outfield in the early portion of the season, as Jake Marisnick was placed on the 7-day disabled list while dealing with concussion-like symptoms. George Springer entered the game as an injury replacement and had been out of the lineup while dealing with hamstring discomfort.
Through the first few innings, Keuchel and Indians starter Josh Tomlin engaged in a pitchers’ duel, with the former getting some help from his defense behind him to get out of some serious situations.
Keuchel allowed the first man to reach on the night with one out in the first when Francisco Lindor drew a walk, but Michael Brantley grounded into a double play. The stakes were a bit higher the following inning for the Tribe, when Jose Ramirez doubled with one out and Jason Kipnis reached on an error by Altuve, but Brandon Guyer’s good numbers coming in against Keuchel did not translate and he grounded into a twin killing to bring a quick end to the Cleveland rally attempt.
Tomlin had to dodge similar trouble in the top of the third after a leadoff double from Yuli Gurriel. After a strikeout by Evan Gattis, Nori Aoki singled to left to put runners on the corners, but Tomlin came back to get a pop up from Reddick and he struck out Carlos Beltran looking to leave the runners stranded.
The Indians took the lead in the bottom of the third. After a first-pitch out from Gomes, Austin Jackson sent a 0-1 pitch over the wall in right-center for a solo home run, his first of the year, to give Cleveland a 1-0 edge. Keuchel needed just seven pitches to get out of the inning, one of five innings on the night that required ten pitches or less from the strong southpaw.
After making quite a bit of contact but having nothing to show for it in the top half of the fourth, Houston struck quickly in the fifth to take the lead. Gurriel singled to left and Gattis reached on a single to short. Aoki doubled home a run with a drive off of the wall and Reddick singled to left, scoring both base runners to put Houston on top before Tomlin struck out Beltran and Altuve for the first two outs and got Carlos Correa to fly to center.
Cleveland nearly cut the deficit to one in the fifth, but a nice play in center by Reddick robbed Kipnis of a would-be home run as his leap at the wall brought back the wannabe souvenir.
Tomlin ran into trouble again in the sixth, but a pitcher’s best friend came to his aid. Alex Bregman singled to left with one out and moved to third on an error at short by Lindor on a ball struck by Gurriel. With runners on the corners again and just one out, Tomlin got Gattis to ground into a double play around the horn to retire the side.
It was the bullpen’s game from the seventh on for the Indians and reliever Nick Goody got some help in the eighth as a double play ball off the bat of Bregman ended the inning.
After Cleveland stranded a pair in the home half, Goody returned for the ninth but, after plunking Gattis with one out, Andrew Miller came on to hold the deficit at two and was unable to do so. Aoki reached on a dribbler in front of the plate that Gomes threw down the right field line, allowing both runners to move into scoring position. Reddick sent the next pitch into right for an RBI-single, his third of the night, extending the Houston lead to 4-1. Miller got one of three double plays converted by the Indians on the night to the next batter as Springer lined out to Guyer, who threw out Aoki trying to score from third on the tag up.
Keuchel returned for the mound in the ninth and gave up a leadoff homer to Brantley and a one-out single to Ramirez, but struck out Kipnis swinging and got Guyer to ground to short to end it.
The loss dropped the Indians to 10-9 and just 2-5 to start the home portion of the schedule.
KEUCHEL GETS A COMPLETE GAME
Keuchel worked out of trouble throughout the night and minimized the damage possible by the Tribe. His complete game effort was the eleventh of his career.
In earning his fourth win of the season, he allowed a season-high two runs to nudge his season ERA to 1.22. He allowed six hits and three walks on the night while striking out five. He was not always crisp in the contest, throwing just 71 of 117 pitches (61%) for strikes while throwing first pitch strikes to 20 of the 34 batters that he faced, but he kept the majority of balls hit on the ground as he induced 15 such hits against seven balls in the air.
TOMLIN A TOUGH-LUCK LOSER
For the third time this season, Tomlin took the loss as he dropped to 1-3 in four starts. It was a quality outing in defeat for the veteran right-hander, who allowed three runs on eight hits with no walks and six strikeouts on the night. He threw 68 of 100 pitches for strikes and cut his ERA back underneath ten at 9.33.
NINE-GAMER FOR BRANTLEY
It came down to his final at bat of the night, but Brantley extended his hitting streak to nine straight games with his homer in the ninth inning off of Keuchel.
The solo blast was his fourth of the season and accounted for his 12th run batted in.
HERNANDEZ HURT ON DAY OF CALL-UP
Hernandez got the call from Triple-A to replace the injured Marisnick on the roster after his trip to the disabled list. Now, a trip could be in store for Hernandez, the second-year outfielder who had just entered the game defensively for the Astros, depending on the severity of the knee injury.
Last season, he appeared in 41 games for Houston, hitting .230 with seven doubles, four homers, and 11 RBI. He was hitting .250 for Fresno prior to his call-up with three triples, four homers, and 15 RBI through his first 16 games.
The Indians will look to get back in the win column on Wednesday and bring an end to their two-game losing skid. Right-hander Trevor Bauer will get the start for Cleveland and will look to build off of a good start in his last outing and a perfect 5-0 record against Houston in his career. The Astros will counter with Lance McCullers, who has struggled on the road and has never pitched against the Indians in his career.
First pitch from Progressive Field is scheduled for another 6:10 PM ET start on Wednesday.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images