Tyler Naquin drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning and Francisco Lindor added a pair of insurance runs with his second home run of the game in the ninth as the Cleveland Indians outhomered and outlasted the Houston Astros by a 6-3 final from Minute Maid Park on Friday night.
It was a five-and-fly night for Corey Kluber, who built up a high pitch count through five innings of work in a tough battle against Houston right-hander Collin McHugh. Kluber kept the Indians in the game and the Indians relied on more two-out hitting and four homers to come away with a second straight victory from Texas.
Houston took a 2-0 lead against Kluber in the bottom of the second. Kluber worked around a pair of two-out hits in the first from Alex Bregman and Michael Brantley that put both runners in scoring position, but a swinging strikeout of Carlos Correa left the duo. Josh Reddick doubled to start the second and moved to third on a single by Yuli Gurriel. After a strikeout by Tyler White, Robinson Chirinos dropped down the safety squeeze towards first base. Carlos Santana fielded the ball barehanded and had time to get the throw to the plate, but he rushed it and threw past the catcher Roberto Perez, allowing Reddick to cross with the game’s first run. George Springer struck out swinging for the second out, but a walk by Jose Altuve loaded the bases and a second walk by Bregman forced in the inning’s second run. Brantley grounded out to Santana at first to leave the bags full.
The Indians got a run back in the next half inning on a milestone home run from the face of the franchise. With two outs, Lindor worked the count full against McHugh before digging out a low slider and sending a second-deck blast to right for career home run number 100. His second homer of the season made it a 2-1 deficit.
The long ball was the story of the night for the Indians and they got another one in the fourth after a 1-2-3 third from Kluber. After a groundout from Santana to start the frame, Carlos Gonzalez jumped on a first pitch fastball and sent a drive to right-center that cleared the wall for his first extra base hit and home run as an Indian while tying the game at two.
Houston responded with a run in the bottom of the inning to reclaim the lead. Chirinos singled with one out and came all the way in to score as Springer doubled over the head of Naquin in right. A bad relay throw from Jason Kipnis sailed well over the head of Perez at the plate and allowed Chirinos to score on the play to give the Astros a 3-2 lead.
The Indians’ home run derby continued in the fifth, as they responded again with a big two-out hit to tie the game at three. After outs in the air by Naquin and Lindor, Leonys Martin yanked a slider into the right field corner that just cleared the wall for a game-tying solo shot. His fifth home run of the month made it a 3-3 contest.
Kluber pitched the fifth, setting down the side in order, but he turned the game over to the bullpen after 98 pitches through 15 outs. McHugh struck out two around a walk in the sixth before handing the tie game over to Will Harris and the Houston relief corps.
The tide turned in the Indians’ favor for good in the seventh against former Cleveland pitching prospect Hector Rondon. The hard-throwing right-hander gave up a first pitch single to Perez, who was lifted for pinch-runner Greg Allen. The slumping outfielder proved his value to the Indians roster as Naquin sent a drive to the gap in right-center. The speedy Allen motored all the way around the bases to put the Indians up, 4-3, on Naquin’s RBI-double.
The Indians bullpen worked out of a big jam after the stretch. Adam Cimber retired both batters that he faced in the inning and all five in his outing before handing the ball to Oliver Perez. He allowed a single off of the wall in left to Brantley before Nick Wittgren entered and gave up a single to right to Correa to put runners on the corners. The Tribe right-hander survived the threat, getting Reddick to line out to center.
Cleveland left a pair in the eighth, but did not make the same mistake in the ninth against Josh James. Naquin singled to left for his second hit in as many at bats before Lindor delivered the back-breaker, going the opposite way to left for a two-run home run, his second of the night, to give the Indians a 6-3 lead.
Closer Brad Hand came on for a second straight night, looking for his eighth save of the year. He walked the leadoff man Altuve in a seven-pitch battle, but the next three batters stood no chance against the All-Star left-hander. Bregman struck out on three straight, Brantley fouled off several pitches before taking a called third strike on the outside corner, and Correa was cut down on four pitches to end the ball game.
Despite the tough season, the Indians (15-10) moved ahead of the Astros (15-11) in the overall American League standings. The Indians have won three in a row and improved to 8-6 on the road. The Astros dropped a second straight home contest and just their third of the season in Houston.
Kluber worked five innings and dealt with some command issues. He walked three, including issuing his fourth bases loaded walk of the season, and he allowed seven hits in total with three runs allowed and six strikeouts. Two of those runs scored came from defensive miscues on the throwing error by Santana and the errant throw by Kipnis on the relay that was not ruled an error in game.
“I thought he competed like crazy and I actually thought his stuff played a little bit up today,” Indians manager Terry Francona said after the game. “He gave us a chance to win.”
The Indians bullpen worked four scoreless innings, allowing three hits and a walk while striking out six.
McHugh had some major swing and miss stuff on Friday night, but the Indians ran into three of his pitches to change the outcome of the game. The right-hander worked five and two-thirds innings, allowing three runs (all on solo homers) and four hits in total while walking two and striking out nine.
Neither team performed well in the clutch. Houston stranded 11 men after going 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position. The Indians went 0-for-6, getting all five RBI-hits with either the bases empty or a runner standing at first. Cleveland left eight on base.
Lindor’s big night marked a big milestone in his career. His first homer of the game was his 100th of his career, getting him to that mark at the third-youngest age of any Indians player (Hal Trosky, Manny Ramirez) or any Major League shortstop (Alex Rodriguez, Cal Ripken Jr.) in history. He drove in three with his two-homer performance.
“Whenever I hit a home run, it’s a good sign,” Lindor said. “I’m finding it. It’s not like I’m completely lost because I’m not … I’m just not where I want to be. I might be a little greedy but that’s just part of the game.”
Brantley extended his hitting streak to 12 straight with his two-hit game.
Game three of the four-game set from Houston is scheduled for a 4:10 PM ET start on FS1. Right-hander Brad Peacock (2-1, 4.29 ERA) will get the starting nod for the Astros, while the Indians will go for the series win with righty Shane Bieber (2-1, 3.47) on the bump looking to improve his career opening road record to 10-0. The two clubs will meet for one final game in the series on Sunday night in a nationally televised game on ESPN.
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