Indians righty improves to 7-0 in 7 career starts vs. Houston
By Brian McTaggart and Richard Dean
HOUSTON -- Even when Indians starter Trevor Bauer isn't at his best, he finds a way to get the best of the Astros.
Bauer beat the Astros for the seventh time in seven career starts against them, and the Indians backed him with three homers to snap Houston's four-game winning streak with a 5-3 victory in the series opener Friday night at Minute Maid Park.
Bauer (4-4) struck out a season-high nine batters in 5 2/3 innings and held the Astros to three runs and five hits. Edwin Encarnacion hit a two-run homer in the fourth off Houston starter Charlie Morton (5-3) to tie the game at 2, and Jason Kipnis (fifth inning) and Lonnie Chisenhall (sixth) added solo shots to keep the Astros at bay.
The Indians' bullpen trio of Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen combined to throw 3 1/3 perfect innings to close it out. Bauer improved to 7-0 with a 2.89 ERA when facing the Astros.
"I happen to be on a good run, I'll enjoy it while it goes my way," Bauer said. "It'll turn around at some point. It's not always going to be that way."
"We make him work," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We make him throw a lot of pitches. We seem to get to him, stagger him a little bit, and then he just makes pitches and he's able to get out of it. ... He lives by the 'bend but don't break' [rule] against us.
"I know his overall numbers are not where he normally is, but against us he's been really tough. ... He's certainly had his run of good games against us. But I feel like every time we face him, we're on the brink of breaking through with a big inning. We just haven't been able to."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Chisenhall's homer clutch: Morton retired Jose Ramirez to start the sixth and got ahead of Chisenhall with two strikes before the right fielder took him deep on an 0-2 pitch to put the Indians ahead, 4-2. That was Chisenhall's third homer in his last five games. He added a sacrifice fly in the eighth inning that pushed Cleveland's lead to 5-3.
Fantastic Frankie: Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor came up with one of his best defensive plays of the season, perhaps saving a run. Lindor tracked down a Jose Altuve grounder to start the sixth behind second base and twirled and threw a two-hopper to Carlos Santana at first base for the out. Carlos Correa followed with a homer that would have tied the game had Altuve reached.
"Frankie plays a really good shortstop," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He's athletic. There's some good ones but he's right up there. That was a heck of a play."
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Right-hander Mike Clevinger makes his third start of the season and will be pitching on only three days' rest after going one-third of an inning in relief versus Tampa Bay on Tuesday. He made one start against Houston last September, lasting only 1 2/3 innings in a 6-2 home loss.
Astros:Mike Fiers, tied for the MLB lead with 16 home runs allowed, will make his eighth start of the season but only his third at home. The right-hander won his first two career starts against Cleveland, but did not record a decision in his April 27 start against the Indians at Progressive Field.