Verlander and Astros Blank Tribe on Two Hits; Astros 2, Indians 0

Justin Verlander looked like his former Cy Young self as he outpitched fellow American League All-Star Shane Bieber in a two-hit 2-0 shutout of the Cleveland Indians on Tuesday night.

Verlander was sharp throughout and sat down the Tribe hitter after hitter while racking up 13 strikeouts on the night. The Indians managed to put just ten balls in play (eight for outs) against the 36-year-old right-hander, who improved to 14-4 on the year with a dominating start. He has now won all four of his starts since the All-Star break with four quality efforts.

While Verlander’s path to a victory was more methodical, Bieber’s outing required a little more work despite a quality showing from the 24-year-old. A pair of first inning singles from Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman could have been a problem, but Bieber struck out rookie Yordan Alvarez looking to strand two. Yuli Gurriel singled in the second and moved to second on a one-out grounder, but another strikeout from Bieber, this time of Robinson Chirinos, left another runner in scoring position. The recipe was the same in the third when Altuve got his second hit of the game with one out, but after Michael Brantley lined out, Altuve was picked off.

Verlander – Jason Miller/Getty Images

The first six Indians were retired in order by Verlander before Roberto Perez laced a single back up the middle for the first hit of the game. He was left at first as Greg Allen flied out and both Tyler Naquin and Francisco Lindor were cut down swinging.

Bieber worked around a one-out single by Alvarez in the fourth by striking out the next two, but Verlander set down the Tribe in order for the third time in four innings in the bottom of the frame. The Astros came out swinging again in the fifth against Bieber and, this time, they were able to push across runs. With one out in the inning, Chirinos cleared the wall in right with his 13th homer of the season to give Houston a 1-0 lead. George Springer flied to center for the second out before Altuve made it a 3-for-3 start to the night with a double to the left field wall. Brantley sent the next pitch to right, where Naquin made a sliding catch, but the catch was ruled a trap on the field and withstood an Indians review as Altuve crossed home with the second run of the inning. Bregman struck out swinging for the third out.

Pitching with his first lead of the night, Verlander struck out the side in the fifth. Bieber once again dealt with base traffic in the sixth as Alvarez walked on five pitches before the Tribe starter got the next three. Verlander gave up his second hit of the game with a leadoff single to Allen in the bottom of the sixth, but two strikeouts around a fielder’s choice force at second kept the Indians from putting together a rally.

For the seventh straight inning, the Astros got a runner on base against Bieber as Chirinos singled to open the inning, but a double play grounder by Springer allowed Bieber to face the minimum for the first and only time on his night. Verlander countered by striking out a pair in the seventh to give him 13 on the night.

The Indians bullpen did its job in relief of Bieber as Tyler Clippard and Nick Wittgren each threw perfect innings in the eighth and ninth, but the Cleveland bats remained quiet against the Houston ‘pen. Will Harris struck out two in a perfect eighth and Roberto Osuna earned his 24th save of the season with a 1-2-3 ninth, retiring Naquin, Lindor, and Oscar Mercado to close out the shutout.

The Indians (62-44) dropped three games in back of the victorious Minnesota Twins with a second straight defeat. The Astros (69-39) continue to have the best record in the American League and hold an eight-game lead over Oakland in the American League West.

Verlander worked seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits while striking out 13. He threw 71 of 105 pitches for strikes and had 22 swinging strikes on the night. He exorcised some demons on Tuesday, as he entered the game with a lifetime 9-16 record in 28 starts at Progressive Field with a 5.56 ERA. It was his first start on the road against the Indians while a member of the Astros.

Brantley – Jason Miller/Getty Images

Bieber dropped to 10-4 on the year with a tough-luck loss. He worked seven innings, allowing two runs on nine hits with a walk and eight strikeouts. The defeat ended a four-game winning streak for the second-year righty.

Neither team saw many opportunities with runners in scoring position. The Astros were 1-for-3, aided by Brantley’s RBI-single on the missed catch by Naquin. The Indians had just one at bat with a runner in scoring position on the night.

Altuve went 3-for-4 and scored the Astros’ second run of the contest. Chirinos had a pair of hits out of the nine-hole. Brantley had one hit in his first regular season game back in Cleveland, his home for ten seasons from 2009 to 2018. Houston played without the services of outfielder Jake Marisnick, who began his two-game suspension for bowling over Los Angeles Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy earlier in the month.

Perez and Allen had the lone knocks for the Tribe as the only two batters to reach base. Jose Ramirez and Jake Bauers each struck out three times against Verlander.

Game two of the tough three-game set from Progressive Field is scheduled for a 7:10 PM ET first pitch on Wednesday. Rookie righty Zach Plesac (5-3, 3.10 ERA) will get the start against Houston for the first time in his career. Fellow rookie right-hander Jose Urquidy (1-0, 4.26) will make his fifth career start for the Astros, looking to build on back-to-back quality starts his last two times out.

Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images

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