A two-run home run by Francisco Lindor in the bottom of the seventh inning proved to be the difference and Cody Allen closed out a nail biter in the ninth, leaving the tying run at third base, as the Cleveland Indians won their first home series of the season behind a 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros on Thursday night.
After Houston took an early 3-1 lead against Corey Kluber, the Houston bullpen picked up the ball game in the fifth for Mike Fiers and had preserved the lead into the seventh, when the Indians took their first lead of the night.
Reliever Chris Devenski had been a force on the mound after taking over for Fiers. After he retired both batters that he faced in the fifth, struck out three straight batters in the sixth, and K’d the first batter of the seventh, Devenski issued a rare walk to Yan Gomes. Carlos Santana struck out swinging for the second out, Devenski’s fifth K of the night. Lindor stepped in for his second at bat against Devenski on the night and the switch-hitting shortstop clobbered a 2-0 pitch over the center field wall for a two-run shot that put Cleveland on top for the first time, 4-3.
Bryan Shaw worked a quiet eighth, but the same could not be said for Allen in the ninth. Pinch-hitter Jose Altuve reached on an infield single to short, but Gomes came up big as he gunned down the stolen base machine attempting to swipe second. Josh Reddick immediately singled to center and would go to third on a single to right by pinch-hitter Carlos Beltran, but Allen got Carlos Correa to pop up to first before striking out Brian McCann on a pitch out of the zone to end the game.
Allen earned his fifth save of the season to help the Indians climb to 12-9 on the season and 4-5 at home. Kluber earned his third win of the season in five starts. Houston fell to 14-8 in the series loss.
Houston missed a big opportunity in the first when they loaded the bases against Kluber with one out. Reddick doubled to start the game and Nori Aoki reached on a single to short. One out later, McCann walked to load the bases, but Kluber struck out Evan Gattis and got Yulieski Gurriel to fly deep to right, where Abraham Almonte made a gigantic leaping catch against the wall to keep the Astros off the scoreboard.
They skipped the run production portion of the game in the second as Marwin Gonzalez delivered a solo homer to right-center to give Houston a 1-0 lead. Gonzalez entered with a .417 average (5-for-13) against Kluber in his career with a double, a homer, and five runs batted in.
Cleveland tied it in the home half of the inning as Edwin Encarnacion responded with a solo homer of his own on the first pitch of the inning against Fiers. His laser beam shot was his first at Progressive Field as an Indian and tied the game at one.
Houston responded with more runs of their own against Kluber in the third, using three straight hits to jump back out in front. With one batter out in the inning, Correa doubled and moved to third on a single by McCann. The aggressive Astros lineup continued to jump on Kluber early in the count as Gattis singled on the first pitch of his AB and singled to left, driving in Correa to give Houston the lead back. After a foul out by Gurriel, Alex Bregman delivered an RBI-double to right to make it a 3-1 game.
The Indians right-hander got support from his battery mate in the fourth as he threw out his first of two would-be base stealers on the night at second base with one out in the inning. Kluber was a different pitcher over his final four innings after struggling through the first three, as he allowed a walk to start the fourth, then retired seven in a row before a single in the sixth. He also issued a walk to Correa with one out in the seventh.
The Indians pulled back within one run in the fifth inning when Almonte homered to right-center on the first pitch of the inning from Fiers.
KLUBER CONTAINS THE DAMAGE
Kluber was in trouble for much of the first few innings, but he was able to gut it out and outlasted the Astros attack and earned the win as a result. He looked early like a pitcher who may not survive five innings, but he instead gave the Tribe seven on the night, allowing three runs on eight hits. He walked four, despite throwing a high percentage of his pitches for strikes, and struck out ten batters.
Thursday marked the 25th time in his career that he has reached double digit strikeout totals in one game. The Indians have now won 50 straight games with Kluber on the mound when supporting him with four or more runs, dating back to June 11, 2013 (h/t Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio).
FIERS FAILS TO FINISH FIVE
Fiers got a relatively quick hook from manager A.J. Hinch on the night as he left with his second start less than five full innings on the season. He worked four and one-third innings, allowing two runs on five hits with three walks and three strikeouts. Both runs came via solo home runs by the Tribe. He threw 74 pitches on the night, 42 for strikes.
Ramirez was 3-for-4 at the plate on Thursday with three singles to push his batting average on the season to .342. While that mark is impressive on its own, he has 17 hits in 32 at bats at Progressive Field this season (.531).
His home success is nothing new – he hit .347 in Cleveland last season.
BRANTLEY STREAK ENDS AT TEN
Brantley was one of two Indians without a strikeout on the night, but he was also held hitless in four trips to end his hitting streak at ten games.
ALTUVE OUT AGAIN
The Astros played with a short roster again on Thursday as both Altuve and George Springer were out of the starting lineup with various ailments.
The former entered the game in the ninth inning and singled to short before being erased on a caught stealing at second. He had previously swiped seven straight bags without being caught to start the season.
SEND IN SEATTLE
As the Astros leave town, another AL West club will come to Progressive Field to replace them as the Seattle Mariners come to visit for a three-game series in their lone trip to Cleveland this season.
First pitch of the series opener on Friday night is scheduled for a 7:10 PM ET start, with right-hander Carlos Carrasco (2-1, 1.65 ERA) ready to go for the Tribe against Mariners left-hander Ariel Miranda (1-2, 4.35).
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images