Cole Keeps on Winning, Shuts Down Tribe; Astros 7, Indians 1

Gerrit Cole spoiled the return to the mound of Cleveland’s Danny Salazar on Thursday by allowing a run on four hits over seven innings to win his ninth straight as the Houston Astros defeated the host Indians by a 7-1 final.

Another solid start from Cole was backed by good offensive support from his Astros teammates as Houston moved to 70-40 on the season. Cole, who is the Majors’ leader in strikeouts, won for the ninth straight decision and has not lost a game since May 22.

Salazar got the start a day after being activated from the 60-day injured list by the Indians. The oft-injured right-hander had not pitched in a big league game since the 2017 playoffs, but he was greeted in rude fashion by the Astros’ George Springer, who started the night’s festivities with his eighth leadoff homer of the season to give Houston an early 1-0 lead. After two more batters reached on a single to center by Jose Altuve and a one-out walk by Alex Bregman, Salazar got a needed double play ball to Francisco Lindor at short to end the inning. He exited the second inning the same way after a leadoff walk by Carlos Correa.

Bregman and Correa – David Maxwell/Getty Images

Lindor led off the home half of the first for the Indians with a leadoff single, but he was stranded by Cole on three straight outs in the air. Franmil Reyes singled in his first at bat as an Indian with one down in the second, but he was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a double to left-center by Jason Kipnis.

Both pitchers posted 1-2-3 efforts in the third inning before the Astros added to their lead. Salazar retired former teammate Michael Brantley on a grounder to third, but Bregman drove a 1-2 changeup down the heart of the plate over the wall in left to extend the lead to 2-0. Salazar prevented further damage, stranding a pair after a double by Yordan Alvarez after the Bregman blast and a two-out walk by Yuli Gurriel.

The Indians cut the deficit in half with a run in the bottom of the fourth. Carlos Santana walked to start the inning and motored to third on a double by new guy Yasiel Puig. Jose Ramirez plated Santana on a sacrifice fly to center, but Reyes flied out into a double play as his fly to right was fired back to the plate where Puig was tagged out trying to tag up and score.

Salazar was gone after 66 pitches in four innings, leaving the game with a groin strain. Tyler Clippard cleared the fifth and sixth innings with some base traffic, but kept the score at 2-1. Cole pitched perfect innings in the same frames before Houston opened up the game in the seventh.

A.J. Cole came on for Clippard in the seventh and pitched into trouble quickly. After a strikeout of Martin Maldonado, Springer walked and Altuve singled. Brantley drove in a run with a double to left and Bregman followed with an RBI-single to make it a 4-1 game. Interim manager Brad Mills came to the mound to retrieve the reliever, calling on left-hander Tyler Olson after Cole allowed four straight to reach. Alvarez grounded to third, with Ramirez cutting down Brantley at the plate trying to score. Correa walked to load the bases, but Gurriel ended the rally with a fly to center for the final out.

After a scoreless bottom half of the seventh by Houston’s Cole, his offense padded the three-run lead with three more runs off of Olson. Maldonado doubled to left with one out and was joined on the bases as Springer drew another walk and Altuve was plunked by a pitch. A sacrifice fly from Brantley scored one more to make it 5-1. Bregman walked to reload the bases and Alvarez delivered with a two-run double to right to give Houston a 7-1 lead. Nick Wittgren came on to get the final batter of the inning.

Hector Rondon, the former Tribe prospect, came on for Cole in the bottom of the eighth and left after five batters with the ducks on the pond. After two grounders to open the inning, Lindor doubled to left and moved to third on a single by Oscar Mercado. Santana walked to load the bases, but Joe Smith (another former Indians pitcher) retired Puig on a grounder to first as Cleveland wasted a huge scoring opportunity.

Wittgren pitched a perfect ninth to keep the score within six, but the Tribe bats could not do anything against Chris Devenski in the bottom half as Ramirez flied to center, Reyes struck out swinging, and Kipnis grounded to third.

Cleveland dropped to 63-45 on the season and lost the season series to Houston, four games to three.

Cole moved to 13-5 on the season with his ninth straight win. He worked seven full innings, allowing one run on four hits with two walks and four strikeouts. He allowed eleven fly balls on the night, but he kept the ball in the yard.

Salazar’s return was marred by yet another injury. While the groin strain is not believed to be too serious, it could be yet another setback for the right-hander. He worked four innings in his return, allowing two runs on four hits with three walks and two strikeouts. Two solo homers against him proved to be enough as the offense could not get going against Cole and the Astros bullpen. His fastball lacked much of the pop it has shown in the past, which may have been related to the groin injury.

“At least I got through four innings,” said Salazar after the game. “I’ll take that as a positive after being out of the game for two years. My groin started getting worse as the game went on, and that took me down a little bit.”

The heart of the Astros order did the heavy lifting. Brantley, Bregman, and Alvarez combined to go 6-for-12 with six RBI. Each had two runs driven in. Bregman’s 27th homer was part of a 3-for-3 day while reaching all five trips via two walks. Springer’s leadoff shot and 25th of the year proceeded three walks. Houston went 4-for-15 with runners in scoring position while stranding eleven.

Puig and Reyes – David Maxwell/Getty Images

Josh Reddick was ejected from the game in the top of the sixth after throwing his equipment after a strikeout. He also shaved his facial hair in between innings after his second plate appearance.

Lindor had a pair of hits for the Tribe. Santana reached twice on free passes and scored the team’s only run. Reyes and Puig each had hits in the first games with the club, while Puig also picked off a base.

Indians manager Terry Francona was not in attendance at the game on Thursday after undergoing eye surgery earlier in the day. He is expected to rejoin the club on Friday.

Prior to the game, the Indians optioned outfielder Greg Allen and outfielder/first baseman Jake Bauers to Triple-A Columbus to make room for the new additions, Puig and Reyes.

The Indians will face another Cole on Friday when the Los Angeles Angels come to town. Mike Clevinger (5-2, 3.28 ERA) will face his former club, looking to improve on a 3-0 mark with a 3.29 ERA in five career starts against them. Taylor Cole (1-1, 2.94), a 29-year-old right-hander, will make his fifth start of the season and 22nd overall appearance on Friday. It will be his second career outing and first start against the Indians.

Baseball returns to Progressive Field at 7:10 PM ET Friday night.

Photo: David Maxwell/Getty Images

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