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Bullpen doesn’t have enough time to lose this one despite admirable effort

And breathe.

MLB: Cleveland Indians at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Hard hit balls galore helped the Cleveland Indians even the series against the reigning World Series champions by a score of 5-4. Things almost unraveled late in the game, but the bullpen didn’t have enough time to botch this one.

The Indians got off to a scorching start in the first inning and scored three before the Astros came to the plate. The ball was put in play six times in the first inning and it was absolutely mashed each time. Here are the results:

  1. 105.4 mph ground out by Francisco Lindor
  2. 94.3 mph home run by Michael Brantley
  3. 104.7 mph double by Jose Ramirez
  4. 105.4 mph double by Edwin Encarnacion
  5. 94.7 mph double by Jason Kipnis
  6. 105.7 mph ground out by Erik Gonzalez

When the softest hit ball is in the mid-90s and it’s a home run, you’re in for a good time. Dallas Keuchel struggled through the first inning, needing 26 pitches before the inning finally ended. He only needed 72 to get through his remaining four innings of work, and the only other run he gave up came on a soft ground ball/throwing error in the fifth inning. Keuchel wasn’t great, but he kept his team in the game, especially given the issues that the Cleveland bullpen has experienced recently. But more on that later.

But first, Corey Kluber. We’re all going to miss this man when he’s gone. He notched another ten strikeouts today and didn’t walk anyone. He allowed just six hits across seven innings of work. One of those hits came off the bat of Carlos Correa and went up onto the train tracks in the outfield, which continues Kluber’s trend of giving up at least a home run every 9.0 innings. But that’s a small price to pay when your ace is doing these things:

Per the official Indians Twitter, Corey Kluber also passed CC Sabathia on the Indians All-Time strikeout leaders list. He’s now in fifth with 1,266 and counting (for reference, Bob Feller has the most with 2,581). One last Kluber tweet:

The offense was held in check for most of the rest of the afternoon. There was some brief life in the fifth inning when Rajai Davis walked and then made it to third on two consecutive ground outs. The man is fast, and his speed is definitely making a difference in the lineup. Jose Ramirez then hit a soft roller to third base that allowed Davis to score thanks to an errant through by Alex Bregman. The last bit of (positive) excitement came in the sixth inning when Yan Gomes obliterated a baseball for a home run off of LGFT Joe Smith. Gomes’ dinger went 105.2 mph and approximately 420 feet; in other words, it was crushed.

It wouldn’t be a 2018 Cleveland baseball game without some bullpen tomfoolery late in the game. After Kluber finished his seven innings, the Indians were up 5-2 with six outs to go. With Andre Knott reporting from the field that Andrew Miller would not be available due to back spasms, everyone collectively held their breath as Tito Francona deployed his bullpen.

Neil Ramirez started off the eighth inning with a strikeout of George Springer, but he then left a 95 mph two-seamer directly over the heart of the plate for Alex Bregman. Bregman quickly deposited the pitch over the wall in center field. Jose Altuve then roped a ground-rule double into right field. With the lead cut to 5-3 and a runner on second with the heart of the order approaching, Francona switched to his closer. Cody Allen got Carlos Correa and Brian McCann to fly out, ending the threat with the ninth inning still looming.

Yuli Gurriel to fly out to start the ninth, but Marwin Gonzalez then turned on a 2-0 fast ball and dumped it into the right field seats, cutting the lead to 1. Then, a brief heart palpitation ensued when pinch hitting Josh Reddick invoked a sharp cheer from the Houston loyal on a fly out to center field. Tony Kemp then struck out on Cody Allen’s 28th pitch of the afternoon, thus sealing the victory. It marked just the second time in Allen’s career that he completed a 5-out save (the first was way back on August 12, 2015 against the Yankees).

Despite their best efforts, the bullpen couldn’t spoil another solid showing by the offense or another incredible effort by the rotation. Carlos Carrasco takes on Lance McCullers Jr. tomorrow night(?) in the rubber match at 8:08 p.m. No word on whether Andrew Miller will be available or not.