After sailing through the first inning, retiring the side on only nine pitches, and retiring the first two batters he faced in the second inning, it seemed at first that Corey Kluber was going to have another typical strong outing on Tuesday evening at Progressive Field. But Kluber walked the next two batters, then gave up a three-run homer to Marwin Gonzalez, giving the Houston Astros a 3-0 lead.
The Indians got one of those runs back in the bottom of the second, but Kluber returned the favor in the third inning, giving up a leadoff double, followed by a run-scoring triple. Now it looked like the wheels were going to come off the Klubot. But he bore down and retired the next three batters. He allowed two more baserunners in the fourth, but no runs, and settled down enough to retire the next ten Astros he faced. Kluber left the game after seven innings with the Indians down 4-1.
The Indians tried to mount a comeback, but it fell short. Carlos Santana homered to lead off the eighth, and the Tribe scored another run in the ninth on a single, a passed ball, a wild pitch, a walk, and a throwing error. With the score 4-3 and the still-speedy Coco Crisp on second base with one out, the Indians faithful dared to hope for another hit to at least tie the score. But Tyler Naquin flied out, and pinch-hitter Brandon Guyer hit a checked-swing grounder to the pitcher, who easily fielded it and threw to first to end the game.
A bad omen to me took place in the bottom of the first inning, when Santana led off with a single and advanced to third on Jason Kipnis‘s double. I’ve long believed that when you have runners on second and third with no outs and fail to score even one run that inning, your team does not deserve to win the game. And indeed Santana and Kipnis were left stranded. When a ground ball to the right side of the infield can plate a run, or a fly ball can, and your team doesn’t score: that’s sad.
Fortunately, our good friends the Chicago White Sox held on to beat the Tigers on Tuesday, so the Indians remain 4.5 games in front in the AL Central. The Indians and Astros face off again on Wednesday evening and conclude the four-game series on Thursday afternoon.