By Brian McTaggart and August Fagerstrom
CLEVELAND -- David Murphy hit a two-run double in the bottom of the eighth inning to break a tie as the Indians secured a 4-2 victory at Progressive Field on Wednesday night.
Tribe starter Trevor Bauer matched a career high with eight innings pitched, holding the Astros to two runs on six hits. He struck out nine and didn't walk a batter. He had run up his pitch count to 58 by the third inning, but Bauer settled down, needing just 37 pitches to get through the next four innings.
"He was efficient and he had some quicker innings that maybe allowed him to reach back in some situations where he had to," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He pitched really well."
Dan Straily, making his second start of the season, threw six quality innings, allowing two earned runs on three hits and two walks. He struck out four.
"Usually, in a close game like this, it's one big hit, it's one big pitch, it's one big defensive play," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We saw a little bit of everything from both sides. They ended up having a big hit when they needed it the most."
Cody Allen earned his 17th save of the season one night after being declared unavailable due to a sore lower back. He pitched a perfect ninth inning, striking out one. He ranks second among American League relief pitchers with 58 strikeouts this season.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Gattis homer it for struggling offense: The only runs the Astros have scored in the last two games came in the first inning Wednesday, when Evan Gattis rocketed a two-run, two-out home run over the left-field wall to give Houston a 2-0 lead against Bauer -- somehow getting around on a high, seemingly unhittable pitch. Gattis is second on the team with 15 homers and leads the club in RBIs with 53. More >
"I thought we got a break early when Gattis swung at the high fastball and hit the homer, and then both pitchers sort of didn't give up any activity," Hinch said. "I felt like we had Bauer on the ropes early and then just couldn't chase him out of the game."
First to third: Each of the Indians' first two runs came after the team got a runner to third base with no outs in the inning. Jason Kipnis led the first off with a triple and scored on a groundout by Francisco Lindor, cutting the deficit to 2-1. In the fourth, Michael Brantley led the inning off with a single and was moved to third base on a Murphy double. Carlos Santana's groundout scored Brantley, tying the score at 2.
"Guys were coming up big for us all game," Bauer said. "We played really good defense and everyone contributed, which is nice. It was a very well-played game. That's what we're capable of doing and that's what we're trying to do more consistently."
Bullpen can't build off Harris' success: Relief pitcher Will Harris, who Hinch stumped for All-Star consideration, entered a tight situation in the seventh and delivered. Straily left the game after allowing a walk and hitting a batter to start the inning, and Harris struck out Brandon Moss, got Giovanny Urshela to line out to left field and retired Michael Bourn on a tapper back to the mound. But Joe Thatcher gave up the two-run double to Murphy and took the loss. More >
"Will Harris again came in and did what Will Harris has been doing all year," Hinch said. "Getting those three outs with two guys on base was critical."
Lefty on lefty: After being unable to capitalize on their potential rally an inning prior, the Indians again put two men on with a chance to take the lead in the eighth inning. Murphy came to bat, facing left-hander Thatcher. Murphy, who has been used in a platoon role with Ryan Raburn this season, had just 12 plate appearances vs. left-handed pitchers entering the game. Nonetheless, he smacked a two-run double off the wall in right field, scoring Lindor and Brantley to give the Tribe a 4-2 lead. More >
"Right, left, it doesn't matter," Murphy said. "It's not like I come to Spring Training and prepare for the season to hit just against righties or just DH. … I might not be an everyday player, but there are still moments I can come through against the lefty or do different parts of the game you may not see me do every single day."
"A guy hit a ball that was above his head out for a home run and I didn't walk anybody. It was the Twilight Zone." -- Bauer
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
The home run hit by Gattis in the first inning came against a pitch that was measured to be 4.4 feet above the ground, per Pitch-f/x data. That makes it the highest pitch hit for a home run in 2015, and the sixth-highest for a home run since 2008. More >
"I love Gattis," Bauer said. "His approach is awesome. … I threw a fastball up and it was two feet out of the strike zone. So what are you going to do? It's great. I love baseball for that reason, because stuff like that happens."
With Bauer reaching 102 strikeouts, the Indians became the first club in Major League history to have four pitchers tally 100 strikeouts before the All-Star break -- Corey Kluber (148), Carlos Carrasco (115) and Danny Salazar (108).
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Lefty Brett Oberholtzer, who was sent to the Minor Leagues after throwing only 1 1/3 innings on June 27 against the Yankees -- he was ejected for throwing at Alex Rodriguez -- has been called up from Triple-A Fresno to start Thursday's 6:10 p.m. CT series finale against the Indians at Progressive Field. Oberholtzer (2-1, 4.32 ERA) will be making his seventh start since returning from the disabled list, where he spent a portion of the spring and the first month of the season with a blister problem.
Indians: Right-hander Cody Anderson (1-1, 0.76 ERA) will start the series finale on Wednesday at 7:10 p.m. ET, looking to continue his hot start to his Major League career. Anderson, who had never pitched into the eighth inning in his professional career before his MLB debut, is the first Indians pitcher since at least 1914 to throw at least 7 2/3 innings in each of his first three career starts.
Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. August Fagerstrom is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.