Tribe Holds Off Late Astros Charge for One-Run Win; Indians 5, Astros 4

After taking an early three-run lead and adding on a little insurance in the middle innings, Corey Kluber and the Cleveland Indians bullpen survived a home run barrage from the Houston Astros in a 5-4 win on Saturday afternoon from Minute Maid Park.

In a tough stretch of games for the Indians (22-22), they got a much-needed win to pull back to the .500 mark on the year. They rode some early offensive support and the strong right arm of Kluber, but had to cling to the edge of their seats in the final few innings.

Dallas Keuchel got the start for Houston and brought dominant numbers in his career against Cleveland, but those would look like ancient history in the first when the Indians busted out with four extra base hits and took a three-run lead. It could have been worse, however, as Francisco Lindor was robbed in a nice play to open the game by third baseman Alex Bregman on a grounder. Michael Brantley got the offense officially going, catching a mid-70s slider that he drove with a 94.4 MPH exit velocity for one of the slower home runs that will be hit this season. The opposite field shot to the Crawford Boxes gave the Indians a 1-0 lead. Jose Ramirez and Edwin Encarnacion expanded the lead with back-to-back doubles and a walk by Brandon Guyer on four straight put two on for Yan Gomes, who popped out to first. With two on and two outs, Jason Kipnis delivered a big double to the right-center gap, making it a 3-0 game.

Kluber – Bob Levey/Getty Images

Kluber was sharp from the jump. He gave up a leadoff single to George Springer before retiring eight straight batters. Springer got to Kluber again, this time with two outs in the third, but Bregman flied out to strand Houston’s second base runner. Kluber struck out the side in order in the fourth.

Keuchel settled down after the rough first, facing the minimum over the next three innings while using a double play ball to erase a one-out single by Lindor in the second.

The Indians added another run in the fifth. Rajai Davis led off the inning with a walk off of Keuchel and moved around the bases on a pair of groundouts. A throwing error by Bregman on a grounder off of the bat of Ramirez allowed Davis to score the fourth run of the game, but after a wild pitch moved Ramirez to third, Encarnacion grounded out to leave a big runner on base.

Kluber faced his first real trouble in the bottom of the fifth. With one down, Marwin Gonzalez singled to left and Evan Gattis took a heater to his left side to put two on for the number nine hitter, the speedy minor league call-up Tony Kemp. He could not come through, however, grounding into a 4-6-3 double play.

The Indians saw former friend of the feather Joe Smith on the mound for the sixth inning and were rude to him. On a 1-1 pitch after a pair of sliders, Gomes got a fastball up and crushed it over the seats in left for a mammoth solo homer to extend the Tribe lead to 5-0.

Houston got on the board against Kluber in the sixth with a two-out scoring effort. After Kluber started the inning with a strikeout and a groundout, Jose Altuve singled to right. Carlos Correa then got a pitch where he liked it and relocated it into a two-run blast, cutting the Indians advantage to 5-2. Kluber returned for the seventh and worked around a leadoff double by Yuli Gurriel, stranding a big runner at third in his final inning of work.

The Astros would not go down without a fight, attacking the Cleveland bullpen. Neil Ramirez was the first man out of the ‘pen and struck out Springer swinging, but Bregman homered to make it 5-3. Altuve followed with a deep drive to right-center that was called a home run on the field, but was overturned on crew chief review into a ground rule double. Two crushed baseballs led manager Terry Francona out to the mound, where he summoned closer Cody Allen in the two-run game with the tying run at the plate in the dangerous Correa. He sent Brantley all the way to the wall in left for a fly out for the second out and Brian McCann flied to right to end the threat with another key runner stranded in scoring position.

After scoreless frames from Tony Sipp in the seventh and Collin McHugh in the eighth, former Indians farmhand Hector Rondon pitched the ninth, keeping it a two-run game with a 1-2-3 inning and sending the game to the bottom of the ninth. Allen returned to the mound, looking for the multi-inning save, and got Gurriel to fly to right for the first out. Gonzalez made it a one-run game with a solo homer to right, but pinch-hitter Josh Reddick flied to Davis in center and Kemp struck out swinging to end it.

With the loss, the Astros (29-18) fall to 13-11 at home and saw their modest three-game winning streak come to an end.

KLUBER MOVES UP K LEADERBOARD

Kluber did exactly as he is expected each and every time out to the mound. He gave the Indians a quality start, racking up strikeouts, minimizing free passes and mistakes, and all in all keeping the game winnable for his offense.

He worked seven innings on Saturday, allowing two runs on six hits. He did not walk a batter and in striking out ten Astros on the afternoon, he moved past CC Sabathia (1,265) on the Indians’ all-time strikeout list and now has 1,272 in his career. He is now just five strikeouts short of matching both Bob Lemon and Early Wynn for third place on the list (1,277).

It also marked the 22nd straight start for Kluber of three runs allowed or less, moving him past Sonny Siebert for the club record. He has not allowed more than three runs in a start since a no-decision on July 29 in Chicago against the White Sox.

The homer by Correa was the eleventh that he has allowed on the season and the fifth two-run shot. Coupled with six solo homers surrendered, 16 of the 21 runs that Kluber has allowed this season have scored via the homer.

Kluber improved to 7-2 with the victory, taking over the American League lead in wins on the season.

ALLEN IN RARE TERRITORY

Allen came on in a big situation in the eighth inning, put in a position to protect a two-run lead with five outs remaining. He did allow the one run on the solo homer by Gonzalez, but otherwise recorded his sixth save of the year and his first five-out save in three years.

Brantley – Bob Levey/Getty Images

KEUCHEL TAKES EARLY LEAVE

Keuchel settled in after the rough first inning, but an elevated pitch count and that high stress inning led to a five-and-fly day for the left-hander. He was charged with four runs on six hits with a pair of walks and three strikeouts, throwing 98 pitches in retiring 15 outs.

STREAKIN’

Brantley’s homer in the first inning extended his hitting streak to a season-high nine games. He is hitting .359 during that stretch with four home runs, eleven runs scored, and 12 runs batted in. His 1-for-4 day at the plate dropped his batting average to .333, still good for fifth in the American League.

Encarnacion went 1-for-4 at the plate with his first inning double to extend his hitting streak to seven straight games and his on-base streak to nine in a row. Kipnis has also found his way onto the bases more of late via hit or walk, a streak that continued on Saturday to nine straight games with his first inning RBI-double.

GOING WORLDWIDE

The rubber match in Houston will get the national treatment on Sunday night as the Indians and Astros play in an 8:08 PM ET primetime start televised by ESPN.

The Astros will call on young right-hander Lance McCullers Jr. (5-2, 3.63). He has made quality starts in five of his last six games, but took his second loss of the season in his last start against Los Angeles, allowing two runs in six innings to the Angels. He has pitched against the Indians one time in his career, giving up five runs on seven hits in five innings in a loss against them last season.

Cleveland will counter with its road warrior, Carlos Carrasco (5-2, 3.66). The right-hander is 40-23 with a 3.10 ERA and a 1.06 WHIP on the road in his career, significantly better than his home marks (27-31, 4.48 ERA, 1.32 WHIP). He is 2-0 in his career at Minute Maid Park and 3-1 lifetime against the Astros in six games. His last time out, he took a tough loss in Detroit, giving up three runs on six hits in six and two-thirds innings.

TRIBE TRIVIA

Following is the answer to Friday morning’s Tribe Trivia question number two and a reminder of question number 3…

The Indians and Astros have four of the top eleven picks from the 2011 draft class on their rosters and serving big roles for both clubs.

Who are we? – Cleveland’s Trevor Bauer (#3 pick) & Francisco Lindor (#8 pick); Houston’s Gerrit Cole (#1 pick) & George Springer (#11 pick)

This current coach on AJ Hinch’s staff spent five seasons in the Majors, including one year with the Indians in 1973. He is probably better known as being the second person to undergo Tommy John surgery, having the procedure in 1978.

Who am I?

Photo: Bob Levey/Getty Images

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