By Brian McTaggart and August Fagerstrom
CLEVELAND -- Indians right-hander Corey Kluber continued to receive little in the way of run support, but he took matters into his own hands by shutting out the Astros over 6 2/3 innings in a 2-0 victory at Progressive Field on Tuesday evening.
Kluber struck out seven and walked two, scattering five hits. He entered the game receiving just 2.33 runs of support per start, worst in baseball, and the number only dropped. Kluber rectified that by holding his opposition scoreless for the second time this season to pick up his first win since May 28.
"He had to work," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He was up a little bit, and he maybe didn't have his best cutter of the year, but he really used his fastball really effectively -- and he pitched in from the start. He was able to go away also, and that kind of opened the plate up."
Astros rookie Vincent Velasquez supplied a valiant effort, but he was simply bested by his Cy Young Award-winning opponent. Velasquez gave up a two-out RBI double to David Murphy in the first and a solo homer to Michael Brantley in the sixth.
"The curveball was kind of slipping away from me a little bit and I had to get back at it and stay on top of things," Velasquez said. "Surprisingly, the changeup was working very well. It's just a matter of locating and executing pitches. Murphy did a great job of hitting that pitch. He's a pull hitter. Like I said, things happen and he ended up pulling it over [right fielder Preston] Tucker's head. And the changeup, Brantley just got a good piece of it. Things happen."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Right foot first: A day after falling behind 4-0 in the first inning, the Indians reversed the trend by getting on the board early. A Brantley ground ball found its way through the hole on the right side of the infield before Murphy roped a line-drive double over Tucker's head in right field, giving the Indians a 1-0 lead.
"Any time you can get [Kluber] a lead right out of the gate, I think it's very important for any starter," Brantley said. "You can kind of get him to relax and settle in. He's an outstanding pitcher and I'm glad he's on our side."
Velasquez gets first decision: After not getting a decision in his first five Major League starts, Velasquez was handed his first career loss, but he pitched well. Velasquez held the Indians to two runs and six hits in 6 1/3 innings, striking out five batters. It's the third consecutive start he's gone 6 1/3 innings. He was optioned to Double-A Corpus Christi after the game to limit his innings. More >
"Given how we're riding our bullpen right now, where we are with the schedule with the All-Star break, we're going to give him a little mental and physical blow for the time being and resort it out after the break," manager A.J. Hinch said.
Brantley's blast: In the bottom of the sixth inning, Brantley did something he hadn't done since May 14: hit a home run. Brantley roped a line drive over the right-field wall off Velasquez, giving the Indians a 2-0 lead. The homer snapped a homerless drought of 206 plate appearances for Brantley, ending the longest in-season homerless drought of his career. The exit velocity of 107 mph, according to Statcast™ data, matched a season high for Brantley, and it was his hardest-hit ball since May 24. More >
"It felt good," Brantley said. "It was a big swing at the time of the game. To go up 2-0 instead of 1-0; and one swing away, now they're two swings away. It lets the pitcher attack the zone a little bit more. The pitching staff did a great job tonight of just keeping them off the bases and getting us back in the dugout quickly so we can keep swinging the bats."
Shaw shuts the door:Bryan Shaw, typically the setup man in Cleveland, earned his second save of the season with a perfect ninth inning. His last save came on June 18, and he now has seven in his career. Closer Cody Allen hadn't pitched in three days, but he was unavailable due to a stiff back.
"His back's stiff," Francona said of his closer. "It actually had been for a couple of days, but there hadn't been a situation, and I just wanted to be cautious. He can pitch tomorrow. He actually threw a bullpen today. I just thought it made sense not to pitch him. It was a hard thing to do, but I think it's in his best interest."
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With an 0-for-3 showing, Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis snapped his home hitting streak at 29 games. The streak was the longest by any player in Progressive Field history, and fell two games short of the longest home hitting streak in franchise history, set by Hal Trosky in 1936. Trosky strung together a streak of 31 home games with at least one hit, 30 of which came at League Park, with the other at Cleveland Stadium.
Indians shortstop prospect Francisco Lindor made an impressive play on a grounder hit by Astros shortstop prospect Carlos Correa in the sixth inning, but Correa was initially called safe at first, as it appeared he had just beat the throw. The Indians challenged, and after review, the call was overturned. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Right-hander Dan Straily (0-0, 7.71 ERA) will start against the Indians in his second game since being called up from Triple-A Fresno at 6:10 p.m. CT on Wednesday. Straily, who allowed four earned runs in 4 2/3 innings at Boston in his Astros debut on Friday, was 6-6 with a 4.06 ERA at Triple-A.
Indians: Right-hander Trevor Bauer (7-5, 3.88 ERA) gets the start on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. ET, coming off a well-pitched win in Pittsburgh his last time out. Bauer was pulled with a no-hitter and 11 strikeouts through six innings in his last outing against Houston on April 9 due to five walks that had led to a high pitch count.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.