The people complaining about the slow pace of baseball games obviously weren’t watching Dallas Keuchel, the Houston Astros, and Keuchel’s ginormous beard take on the Indians Tuesday night. It’s painful to say nice things about the opposing team when they’ve just beaten your team, but Keuchel pitched a great game, going the distance and dispatching Cleveland in a brisk 2 hours 46 minutes.
Josh Tomlin made the start for Cleveland, and he looked great for the first four innings, giving up a few scattered hits but no runs. Cleveland took an early lead on a solo home run by Austin Jackson in the 3rd. Tomlin and Keuchel were both cruising (albeit at different speeds), and it looked like it might end up being a very fast one-run pitchers’ duel. Then, as it often seems to happen for the Indians, the 5th inning gave them a spot of bother.
On paper, you’d think that an inning in which you strike out both Carlos Beltran and Jose Altuve would be a decent inning. Unfortunately for Tomlin, those back-to-back strikeouts occurred after he gave up a pair of singles to Yuli Gurriel and Evan Gattis, a double to Norichika Aoki, and a single to a troublesome Josh Reddick. It was suddenly a 3-1 ballgame against a pitcher who was in a groove smoother than James Brown’s rhythm section.
Defensively, Cleveland did a lot of things right. They turned three double plays and induced eight outs on groundballs. They also committed two errors (Lindor and Gomes). The problem was Houston kept hitting the ball where they weren’t. Offensively, Cleveland had a hard time hitting balls off the ground. They hit 15 ground balls for outs, including three double plays. In fact, Keuchel is the first starting pitcher to get three inning-ending ground ball-induced double plays against the Indians since Jon Lester in August 2015.
When the Indians did manage to get the ball in the air, they weren’t always able to score. Jason Kipnis, who was 0-for-4 on the night, looked like he might get a run back in the Indians’ half of the 5th. He hit a long fly ball to deep center that was just over the wall and… Reddick jumped and caught it. Kipnis was halfway to second before he realized he was the victim of thievery on a grand scale.
The Astros victory came at a cost. In the bottom of the 8th with one out, Yan Gomes hit a bloop fly ball to shallow center field. Left fielder Teoscar Hernandez (who came in for Carlos Beltran in the 7th), second baseman Jose Altuve, and center fielder Josh Reddick all converged to make the play. Hernandez and Altuve slammed into each other in one of those ugly collisions that make your stomach curl. There were several tense minutes as both players lay on the field, writhing in pain. Altuve managed to walk off the field on his own, but Hernandez appeared to have injured a knee and left in the trainer’s cart. As of this writing, there was no word on their condition.
Final score, Astros 4, Cleveland 2. They do it again on Wednesday at 6:10 at Progressive Field.