CLEVELAND – A tape measure two-run homer off the bat of Francisco Lindor spelled the end to a remarkable string of strikeouts for Chris Devenski and the Houston Astros.
Facing a 3-2 deficit with Corey Kluber likely done for the night, the Indians were able to untie their proverbial knot and beat the AL West front-runners by a score of 4-3 on Thursday evening at Progressive Field.
Kluber, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen struck out 11 batters behind a trio of long balls from Edwin Encarnacion, Abraham Almonte and Lindor.
Devenski takes loss despite early dominance
Despite striking out five of the 10 batters he faced, Devenski fell victim to the power-hitting surge of Lindor in the seventh frame with Yan Gomes (walk) at first in a two-out situation.
“You can tell by where they brought him in the situation, how much confidence they have in [Devenski],” said manager Terry Francona. “Sometimes you need good players to step up.”
The result was a 107.5-mph bomb traveling 456 feet to put the Tribe ahead 4-3 in the seventh inning. With the go-ahead RBIs, Lindor became the fastest Cleveland shortstop to reach six home runs since Woodie Held did it in 16 games in 1960.
“I couldn’t remember what his pitches looked like,” Lindor said of facing Devenski for just the second time in his career. “I didn’t see how far it went, but it felt great.”
Kluber perseveres in quality start
An inauspicious beginning to Kluber’s outing was saved by Almonte’s leaping grab at the wall with the bases-loaded. The two-out catch would have been a bases-clearing double for Yuli Gurriel in the first inning.
“I looked to my glove because I didn’t feel it when it hit my glove,” said Almonte. “When I open my glove and see it, I say, ‘Yeah, I got it.’”
Kluber early-game struggles worsened on a Marwin Gonzalez home run, Evan Gattis RBI single and Alex Bregman RBI double.
“They’re relentless,” Kluber said of the Astros batting order. “They got good hitters (for) the entirety of the lineup. Some of the guys are more aggressive than others, some of the guys hit for more power than others. They got a lot of different ways they can come at you.”
The 2014 AL Cy Young settled in throughout the middle innings and retired 10 of the last 12 Houston hitters he faced to earn his third win of the campaign – 7 IP, 8 H, 3 R/ER, 4 BB, 10 K (105 pitches, 72 strikes, 68.6%, five groundouts, one flyout).
“I thought tonight he had a real good changeup,” said Francona. “As he got into the game, he started using his changeup. He was real good. For him to give us seven, at least it gave us a chance.”
Kluber is now 15-0 with a 1.54 ERA in 192 innings pitched when he records double-digit strikeouts.
The performance of the Indians offense correlated with Kluber’s outing in that both sides of the ball gradually improved as the contest progressed.
In addition to Encarnacion’s first home run at Progressive Field in the second, the home nine added a score on Almonte’s solo shot to right field to cut the deficit to 3-2 in the fifth.
“I was feeling good,” Almonte said. “I was trying to help my team win, especially in that situation.”
Allen works out of jam
Allen did not take any shortcuts toward earning his fifth save, just one night after Andrew Miller punched out Carlos Correa and Bryan McCann in a climactic bases-loaded scenario.
Even though the closer allowed three consecutive singles to start the frame, he took advantage of Gomes’ laser of a throw to gun down Jose Altuve at second and put a halt to a promising rally.
Similar to Miller, Allen retired Correa and McCann on a pop out and strikeout to leave the tying run stranded at third.
“His breaking ball [has] been consistently – from start to now – like locked in, like mid-season,” said Francona. “There’s a lot going on in that ninth inning. [Houston has] runners on, there’s a TV next to me, the Browns are coming up to make a pick.”
“You talk about pressure man, there’s a lot going on there.”
Central Division update
Fernando Rodriguez took the loss for the Tigers (11-10) courtesy of a go-ahead single off the bat of Seattle’s Ben Gamel in the ninth inning.
The Indians and Mariners open a three-game series on Friday at 7:10 p.m. from Progressive Field in Cleveland, OH.
RHP Carlos Carrasco (2-1, 1.65) will look to sustain his string of quality starts after hurling eight shutout innings in Chicago to lower his ERA to 1.65, the sixth lowest mark in baseball.
LHP Ariel Miranda (1-2, 4.35) is scheduled to make his first career start in Cleveland in hopes to bounce back from allowing four runs in three innings last Saturday in Oakland.
John Alfes has covered the Indians for IBI since August of 2016. Follow him on Twitter @JohnAlfes for breaking news and in-depth coverage all season long.