Mike Clevinger carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning and combined with two Cleveland relievers on a three-hit shutout of a Houston team with the best record in the Majors as the Indians blanked the Astros, 3-0, on Saturday afternoon.
Like the previous four games in the season series between Cleveland and Houston, the fifth of six matchups in the regular season between the two clubs was a hotly contested game that came down to just a few runs. While the Astros have been one of the top teams in baseball since the season began, the Indians have had their number despite their own inconsistencies this year, dealing the club two of its three series losses this season. Saturday’s victory by Cleveland guaranteed it a winning record against the young and fiery Houston club, one that seems to be on the fast track to the postseason already.
The right-hander Clevinger made his third start of the season and his fourth appearance overall after working in Wednesday’s game with a late inning strikeout of the lone Tampa batter that he faced. He brought the impressive command he showed in his relief appearance to the Minute Maid Park mound against Houston and flirted with history.
Mike Fiers was on the rubber for the Astros, hoping to work deeper in the ball game than he had throughout the season. The Indians seemed intent on helping him with that cause in the early going, aggressively attacking his offerings in the first inning, getting a pair of one-out singles from Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley before two outs in the air from Carlos Santana and Edwin Encarnacion.
The Indians followed a similar recipe in the second inning, but in their second try, the results tasted much sweeter. With one down in the frame, Lonnie Chisenhall singled to center and Yan Gomes singled to left. Bradley Zimmer struck out looking for the second out. Nearly out of his second jam in as many innings, Fiers was hurt by a passed ball by catcher Evan Gattis, which allowed both runners to move into scoring position. The play would loom large several pitches later, as Kipnis sent a full count single to right. Chisenhall scored from third easily, but Gomes was thrown out at the plate. With the inning over, the Indians had taken a 1-0 lead.
Chisenhall’s face would come up on the highlight reel again in the fourth inning. Ahead in the count 2-0 with two outs in the inning, Chisenhall socked a deep blast to center estimated at over 430 feet to push the Indians’ lead to 2-0.
Meanwhile, Clevinger was having his way with the Houston lineup. He retired the first ten batters in order, striking out one in the first, two in the second, and one more in the third. Josh Reddick ended any thoughts of a perfect game when he reached safely on an error by Encarnacion. Clevinger came back to strike out Jose Altuve swinging before walking Carlos Correa on five pitches. With two on and two outs, he got Carlos Beltran to fly to left to end the threat.
It would be the last of the threats on the afternoon for the Astros against the Indians righty. Clevinger struck out a pair to start the fifth and had retired six in a row before a two-out walk by Reddick in the bottom of the sixth. He was erased on a caught stealing with Altuve at the plate, as the Indians starter had faced just two over the minimum through two-thirds of the game and had yet to allow a hit.
Fiers’ day ended after six, but Clevinger returned for the bottom of the seventh, set to match up with Altuve for the third time. The second baseman jumped on the first pitch and sent a screamer past a diving Ramirez at third base for the first hit of the game for Houston. His no-hitter spoiled but a shutout still intact, Clevinger got a double play grounder from Correa for two outs and got Beltran to fly to left.
Cleveland added the always important insurance run late in the eighth. Former Tribesman Tony Sipp retired Kipnis to start the top half before James Hoyt entered for his second appearance in as many days. After getting Lindor to line out sharply to right, Brantley singled to center and Santana doubled to left-center, scoring the Indians left fielder all the way from first on the drive to extend the Indians lead to 3-0.
Nearing the end of his line with a high pitch count, Clevinger did return for the eighth, but was relieved after giving up a single to Gattis, who had struck out in each of his first two at bats off of the right-hander. Andrew Miller came on and, after a wild pitch advanced Gattis to second, struck out Yuli Gurriel, got Alex Bregman to fly to right, and struck out pinch-hitter Marwin Gonzalez to leave the Cleveland advantage at three.
Cody Allen came on for the ninth, looking for his second save in as many days. George Springer earned a well-deserved single after fouling off four pitches after the count reached 2-2, but he was caught sleeping when Reddick lined to right off of Allen. Chisenhall made the grab and fired back to Encarnacion at first to double up Springer for the second out. Altuve grounded to Ramirez at third to end the game.
The Indians improved to 22-19 with the win and are now 14-9 on the road this season. They are 4-1 against the Astros this season. Houston dropped to 29-14 on the year and 14-8 from Minute Maid Park.
Clevinger earned his second win of the campaign behind seven-plus innings of scoreless baseball. He carried his no-hitter through six innings and allowed just two hits in total on the afternoon. The outing presented several firsts in his short big league career, as he pitched his deepest start in the Majors while striking out a career-high eight. His command was also much better than his previous starts, as he allowed just two walks on Saturday.
Fiers gave the Astros a quality outing for the first time since his first start of the season, when he allowed two runs (one earned) on five hits in six innings in a 5-1 loss to Kansas City. His line was similar on Saturday in earning his second loss of the year, as he allowed one earned run and two runs in total on six hits over six innings. He walked one and struck out three. He has now allowed home runs in eight straight games to start the season and has surrendered 17 on the year, including three to Cleveland batters.
Allen’s save was his 12th of the season in as many tries.
Chisenhall was responsible for two of the three runs for the Tribe as its offensive star of the day. He was 2-for-4 at the plate with a single, a homer, an RBI, and two runs scored. He now has six homers and 22 RBI on the season and has homered in consecutive games for the third time this year.
Brantley had a pair of singles in four trips and scored a run. Zimmer stole his first career base. The Indians worked just one walk on the afternoon, but were efficient with three two-out RBI despite going 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position in the game.
The Indians will go for the ‘stros sweep on Sunday in a 2:10 PM ET start.
Right-hander Danny Salazar (2-4, 5.66 ERA) will look to get himself back on track after giving up four home runs in his last start on Tuesday against Tampa. He will bring a 1.47 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP from three previous contests against the Astros into Sunday’s game. Houston will look to right-hander Joe Musgrove (3-3, 4.57) to help salvage the series and prevent the Astros from matching a season-high three-game losing skid (done once from April 6-8) and suffering their first sweep of the season. It will be the first career start for Musgrove against the Indians. He allowing just one run in his last outing against Miami on Monday.
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