Bauer Outduels Cole in Game Decided by Homers; Indians 2, Astros 1

Trevor Bauer pitched eight innings of one-run baseball and outlasted his former college teammate Gerrit Cole in a game decided by three home runs as the Cleveland Indians defeated the Houston Astros by a 2-1 final on Thursday night.

Bauer has a tendency of bringing his best against the Astros, a team with which he has a storied rivalry. Tensions with his former UCLA rotation mate Cole, a back and forth with third baseman Alex Bregman, and some words with Astros Twitter followers have not stood in the way of Bauer bringing a perfect 7-0 record to the mound with him in the series opener from Minute Maid Park. He did not receive a lot of run support, but he made the two runs that he got stand up as he held the Astros to just a run on four hits in eight innings of a two hour and 40 minute game.

To his credit, Cole pitched a heck of a game in his first start since getting rocked for nine runs on nine hits in just four and one-third innings against Texas on April 20 for his third loss of the season. He worked seven frames, allowing just two runs on three hits with three walks and ten strikeouts, but it was not enough as Bauer and closer Brad Hand limited the Houston lineup to just one run on four hits.

Cole lost the strike zone momentarily in the first, putting two on with two outs on back-to-back walks to Jose Ramirez and Carlos Santana, but the pair were stranded as Carlos Gonzalez struck out swinging to end the inning. He added his third strikeout of the game in the second, setting down Jake Bauers looking, and struck out each of the first two batters in the third before Leonys Martin yanked a four-seamer just over the wall in the right field corner to put the Indians up by a 1-0 count.

Bauers – Tim Warner/Getty Images

Bauer allowed a two-out walk to Bregman in the first and a leadoff single to Carlos Correa in the second, but a double play ball off of the bat of Yuli Gurriel erased the runner. He retired the first two in the bottom of the third before finding a fate similar to Cole as George Springer knotted the game at one with a deep drive to left for his eighth homer of the season.

Both clubs had base runners in the fourth, but would not score. Santana ended his hitting slump with a leadoff single to left, but he was forced out at second on the front end of a double play grounder to third. Michael Brantley singled to center with one out in the bottom of the fourth, but was tagged trying to advance on a ball in the dirt. Correa followed with a walk before Gurriel flied to left.

Two pitches into the fifth, the final run of the game crossed the plate as Bauers aided Bauer with a home run the opposite way to left to move the Indians back in front by a 2-1 score. Cole retired the next eight hitters before walking Bauers in the top of the seventh, but he was left at first as Roberto Perez struck out swinging for Cole’s tenth strikeout of the night.

Bauer had some walk troubles throughout the night, issuing an uncharacteristic six free passes on the day. One of those came in the fifth with one down when Robinson Chirinos walked on five pitches, but back-to-back strikeouts of Tony Kemp and Springer kept it a one-run game. Jose Altuve walked to lead off the sixth and was joined on the bases on a one-out single by Brantley, but a big double play off of the bat of Correa ended the scoring opportunity when the shortstop did not run out the play after believing that he fouled the ball off of his left foot. Bauer stranded Josh Reddick after his one-out walk in the seventh, adding his third and final strikeout of the night to get out of the inning, and a caught stealing after a one-out walk by Altuve in the bottom of the eighth derailed any Astros rally in their penultimate at bats.

Hand had to work through the middle of the Houston lineup to earn his seventh save of the season. He got Brantley to pop to short before striking out Correa swinging. Gurriel drilled the sixth pitch that he saw straight to Jason Kipnis at second, where the final out was recorded on the liner.

The Indians moved to 14-10 on the year with their second straight win. They are now 7-6 away from Progressive Field this season. The Astros lost for just the second time this season at home and fell to 15-10 overall.

Bauer’s stat line might not have been the prettiest, but it was far more about the end results. He worked a season-high eight innings and threw 118 pitches. He worked from behind a lot, throwing first pitch strikes to just 11 of the 30 batters that he faced, and he did not get many strikes past the Houston hitters, who swung and missed just eight times on the night. He was charged with a solo run on the Springer homer and allowed four hits in total while walking six and striking out three.

“He competed his rear end off,” said Tribe skipper Terry Francona after the game. “As a lineup, they don’t go out of the zone…Their lineup is good. They’re balanced, they’re deep and he competed like crazy.”

Bauer is now 8-0 in his career against Houston in nine regular season starts. He owns a 2.90 ERA and a 1.09 WHIP against them with 71 strikeouts and 24 walks in 59 innings. One-quarter of that walk total came Thursday. His only no-decision against the Astros came last season, when he struck out 13 batters but allowed four runs on five hits in seven and one-third innings.

“I knew I was going to have to mix up some sequences and do things a little differently than I normally did,” said Bauer. “I thought it worked okay. They hit some balls hard right at some people.”

Cole was superb, but suffered the damage of the two solo homers from Martin and Bauers. He allowed just three hits in total, including the single by Santana, and walked three while striking out ten in his fourth defeat on the season. Will Harris and Roberto Osuna backed his effort with two innings of one-hit relief.

Brantley extended his hitting streak to eleven straight games with his two-single performance against his longtime teammate Bauer. Springer and Correa each extended their hitting streaks to seven games. Reddick’s seven-game hitting streak ended with an 0-for-2 mark at the plate with a walk, and Bregman’s six-game streak ended with an 0-for-3 effort with a strikeout.

Prior to the game, the Indians made a pair of roster moves. Starting pitcher Jefry Rodriguez was optioned back to Triple-A Columbus after a strong start against Miami on Wednesday. The contract of reliever Tyler Clippard was purchased from the Clippers. The Indians also announced that Columbus outfielder Cameron Maybin was traded to the New York Yankees for cash considerations.

Game two of the four-game series is scheduled for an 8:10 PM ET first pitch from Houston on Friday night. The Astros will send out right-hander Collin McHugh (3-2, 4.78 ERA), while the Indians will counter with fellow right-hander Corey Kluber (2-2, 5.88).

Photo: Tim Warner/Getty Images

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