Had you paid no attention to the actual score, it would be reasonable to think this game a see-saw affair, as both clubs traded blows through the evening. But the Houston Astros never led, and only were even with the Cleveland Indians through the first half-inning. So let’s compromise and call this game a tense wire-to-wire win. Or, to use the local Let’s Go Tribe dialect:
@they had it all the way@
[And for those unfamiliar with this rather unique dialect, the special characters “@” demotes a sarcastic remark.]
Houston starter Lance McCullers had early trouble staying down in the strike zone, and didn’t have quite the oomph on his fastball that he would have later in the game. But it wasn’t the fastball that burned him in the first inning, it was his curve/slider that Indians slapped the other way. Carlos Santana lined a high breaking ball into center field, then after Francisco Lindor walked, Michael Brantley lined another hanger off the wall in left-center field, just out of the reach of Josh Reddick, last night’s defensive (and offensive) hero. Reddick would later in the inning just miss another ball, a liner into the gap off the bat of Jose Ramirez, and that double would give the Indians a 3-0 lead.
This three-run lead, the first of three that the Indians would have, would hold until the top of the fourth inning, when Evan Gattis (whose swing has a most attractive
launch angle upper cut), slammed a high Trevor Bauer cut fastball over the center field fence to cut the lead to 3-2. This would not be the last time the Astros cut an Indians lead from three to one.
The Indians would respond to this tightening of the lead the following inning. A Carlos Santana walk started things, then Francisco Lindor poked an outside breaking pitch down the third base line. The Astros brought the infield in, manager A.J. Hinch perhaps thinking that with Andrew Miller looming, the Astros would be hard-pressed to score two more runs tonight, nevermind more. And that move turned out to backfire, as Michael Brantley slapped a pitch that just eluded shortstop Carlos Correa; had Correa been playing even a couple steps back, he would have fielded the ball and perhaps have been able to throw out Santana at the plate. But the ball did go through, and the Indians once again had a three-run lead.
But once again Trevor Bauer gave up a two-run homer, this time to Brian McCann, and once again the Indians’ lead was down to one. But I should at this time mention that beyond those two mistakes, Bauer did pitch well (6.0 IP, 6 H, 8 SO, 2 BB), especially in finishing up the sixth inning with his pitching tank nearing empty. After the McCann homer, Bauer fell behind Evan Gattis 3-0, but eventually struck him out in an eleven-pitch at-bat. During that grudge match, Bauer threw Gattis nine straight fastball, all at 94.4 mph or faster (the home run came on an 88 mph cutter). Bauer then retired the next two batters, leaving Andrew Miller to enter to begin the seventh inning.
The Indians push their lead back to three on a nifty piece of hitting by Carlos Santana. He turned around a 99 mph fastball at the bottom of the strike zone, lining a double down the right field line to score two. Finally, a three-run lead that would hold up, right? But if you watched the game (or even read the first couple of paragraphs of this recap), you’ll know that the Astros weren’t done yet.
The Astros, even without Jose Altuve and George Springer, posed a serious challenge to even the most electric pitcher in the bullpen. Miller worked into a jam not entirely of his own doing (Carlos Santana muffed an easy grounder), walking a batter, the hitting a batter, but struck out Correa and McCann to end a bases-loaded threat. Bryan Shaw, who also got himself into a pickle thanks to an especially silly error (by not picking up a dribbler in front of the plate) followed by a Metrodome-style single, was not so fortunate. He gave up a two-run double, and so Cody Allen was called upon to attempt a four-run save.
Allen hadn’t pitched since Thursday (when he closed out a 6-2 victory), but he managed to retire Reddick (who afterwards was miffed a 2-0 borderline pitch was called a strike), then retired the Astros in short order in the ninth.
Just your typical 7-6, easy victory. No problem whatsoever.