The Indians used four home runs to score all ten of their runs on Wednesday as Cleveland evened up its series with the Houston Astros behind a 10-4 final from Progressive Field.
On a day highlighted by a trade deadline that picked up in the final minutes, long after Cleveland’s overnight trade of Trevor Bauer that brought back five pieces for the present and future, the Indians offense looked to be sparked by the pending arrival of two new sluggers, Yasiel Puig and Franmil Reyes, neither of whom had arrived in time for the game between two of the top teams in the American League. The Indians trailed in the early going as Zach Plesac surrendered four runs over the first three frames, but a seven-run outburst, including three home runs in the fifth and sixth innings, by the Cleveland offense pushed the Indians back into the win column while evening up the season series between the two clubs at 3-3.
Houston wasted two walks in the first by Plesac, but skipped run production efforts in the second as Carlos Correa kicked off the inning with a solo homer on a 1-2 pitch to give the Astros an early edge.
The Indians struck back with a big blow in the bottom of the second to take their first lead against rookie right-hander Jose Urquidy. After a Jose Ramirez lineout to open the inning, Jordan Luplow singled and Jake Bauers walked. Roberto Perez worked the count back to even at 2-2 before catching a four-seamer down the middle that he blasted the opposite way to right-center for a three-run home run. His 17th of the season gave the Indians a 3-1 lead.
The Astros rallied back with a big response inning of their own in the third to reclaim the lead. Jose Altuve opened the inning with a single to center. After Michael Brantley flied to left, Alex Bregman singled and Yordan Alvarez walked on four straight to load the bases. Correa grounded to third, with Ramirez firing to the plate for the force out for the second out, but Yuli Gurriel put the Astros back on the board with a bases clearing double to left to give Houston a 4-3 advantage.
Urquidy gave up a leadoff double to Oscar Mercado in the third and a single to Luplow to start the fourth, but he stranded both runners in scoring position to protect his one-run lead. Plesac responded by setting down seven in a row before the Indians fought back with a big fifth.
Francisco Lindor started things off with a double to left. Mercado sacrificed, but reached safely to put runners on the corners. Two pitches later, Santana pulled a deep drive to right for his 23rd bomb of the year, moving Cleveland back out in front, 6-4. Urquidy got the hook after Jason Kipnis singled, but reliever Chris Devenski retired the next three to leave a runner at second.
A leadoff double by Correa to start the sixth ended Plesac’s outing. Manager Terry Francona went to his bullpen for Nick Goody, who pitched himself into and out of a jam. Gurriel reached out an error by Lindor. Josh Reddick popped to short for the first out and Robinson Chirinos grounded into a fielder’s choice force at second. George Springer walked on five pitches, but Goody got out of his mess by striking out Altuve on a 1-2 slider to leave the bags full.
The good fortunes for the Tribe extended into the bottom of the sixth as the club broke open the two-run game after narrowly escaping the top half. Collin McHugh came in for skipper AJ Hinch, but his second pitch was driven over the wall in right by Perez for his first career regular season two-homer game to make the score 7-4. After a liner to short by Tyler Naquin, Lindor singled and Mercado walked. Santana struck out swinging for the second out, but the next pitch to Kipnis was driven 394 feet to right for the team’s third three-run homer of the night, putting the Indians up, 10-4.
Oliver Perez got a double play ball to help clear the seventh. Adam Cimber retired the side in order in the eighth and came back out for the ninth, getting the first two batters before Altuve walked on five pitches. Looking to get in some work, Brad Hand came on in the non-save situation and needed just one pitch to get Brantley to ground into the game-ending force at second.
The Indians (63-44) kept pace with the victorious Minnesota Twins and remain three games in back in the American League Central. The team put up an impressive 18-6 mark during July. The Astros dropped to 69-40 with the loss.
Perez’s big day at the plate pushed his season home run total to 18. He went 2-for-3 with a walk, two runs scored, and four runs batted in. Lindor went 3-for-5 with three singles while scoring a pair of runs. Kipnis hit his ninth homer in a two-hit day while driving in three. Luplow had a two-hit day as well, while Santana drove in three more runs to give him a team-leading 60 on the season. The Tribe hit four homers, including three three-run shots, less than a day after adding 49 homers to the lineup in Puig and Reyes.
“There aren’t a whole lot of nights you get three three-run homers, especially against Houston,” said Francona after the game. “I thought all of our guys played a good game tonight. When we beat Houston, we’ve played a really good game because they’re a really good team.”
In amassing three three-run blasts in one game, the Indians accomplished a feat not done by the club since August 27, 2010.
Correa went 2-for-4 with his 13th homer of the year for Houston. Altuve reached base safely three times with a single and two walks, while Gurriel drove in three of the team’s four runs on his 27th double of the season.
Plesac earned the win despite a messy start to his night. He worked five-plus innings, allowing four runs on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts to improve to 6-3. The Indians bullpen behind him worked four scoreless and hitless innings, issuing just three walks along the way.
Urquidy lost his first game in the Majors after allowing six runs on eight hits with a walk and a strikeout in four-plus innings. McHugh’s outing left something to be desired, as he allowed four more runs on three hits with a walk and two strikeouts while giving up two home runs in just an inning of work.
The traded Bauer was seen taking in the game as a spectator in street clothes on the main concourse. He also issued an impromptu press conference during the game in the media dining area.
Prior to the game, the Astros were active late on the trade market in the final moments before the deadline. The club formally reacquired catcher Martin Maldonado from the Chicago Cubs and also picked up a big get, dealing for Arizona starter Zack Greinke. Toronto starter Aaron Sanchez and reliever Joe Biagini also relocated to the playoff race.
The regular season finale between the Indians and Astros is scheduled for a 7:10 PM ET first pitch on Thursday. Danny Salazar, who was activated from the 60-day injured list on Wednesday, will make his first appearance since the 2017 playoffs. He will match up with Houston’s Gerrit Cole (12-5, 2.94 ERA), who has not suffered a loss since May 22. He has won eight straight decisions since.
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