Cleveland showed up to Minute Maid Park and participated in all nine innings of a baseball game Tuesday night, fulfilling the bare minimum required of them in a 9-3 loss to the Houston Astros.
Triston McKenzie’s start was nearly a mirror image of J.C. Mejia’s from the night before. He managed to limit the Astros to two runs through the first four innings, giving up a pair of solo home runs to Jose Altuve. But then McKenzie unraveled the third time through the order in the fifth inning. He hit Michael Brantley with a pitch, gave up a sharp single to Yuri Gurriel on an 0-2 slider, allowed them to advance on a wild pitch, and then saw both of them cross the plate on a Yordan Alvarez RBI single. He battled but it wasn’t nearly good enough for this team.
Cleveland was not going to erase a 4-0 deficit but Nick Sandlin did his part to make sure the game was out of reach in relief of McKenzie, serving up a two-run homer to Kyle Tucker to make it 6-0. With two outs, Sandlin loaded the bases with an infield single followed by a pair of walks, forcing manager Terry Francona to bring in Justin Garza to try and get the final out of the fifth inning. But Garza, who hadn’t pitched in two weeks, promptly surrendered a two-run single to Michael Brantley, though Altuve was caught trying to advance to third.
Carlos Correa was able to snap his 0-for-29 streak at the plate in the sixth inning, lining a double into the gap in left-center off Garza. He came around to score after Tucker chopped an RBI single through the left side of the infield, upping the Astros’ lead to 9-0. Garza drew the short straw and ate the final 2.2 innings of work, giving up four hits and one earned run.
Offensively, Cleveland looked overmatched at the plate against 24-year-old right-hander Luis Garcia. I mean, 46% of his pitches were either a called strike or a swing-and-miss. Garcia attacked the bottom of the strike zone with his cutter and his four-seamer and kept hitters from sitting on them with his curveball, changeup, and slider, racking up eight strikeouts on the night. He didn’t have a single three-ball count in six shutout innings.
One of the three hits Cleveland collected against Garcia was the result of Harold Ramirez literally throwing his bat at pitch and then legging out an infield single. After Daniel Johnson followed with a two-out single to right field, Garcia proceeded to retire the next 10 batters he faced.
Cleveland managed to break up the shutout in the eighth inning against old friend and current foe Joe Smith. Ernie Clement recorded his second hit of the night for a leadoff single and Bradley Zimmer reached on a bunt single to put runners at first and second with no outs. Amed Rosario doubled down the third base line to score Clement, and Cesar Hernandez followed with a double of his own off the wall in left field to bring home Zimmer and Rosario.
Bizarrely, Roberto Pérez made his first career appearance at first base after pinch-hitting for Bobby Bradley in the seventh inning and nearly botched the first putout that came his way, putting the wrong foot on the bag and standing a bit too close to the basepath. It was later reported that Bradley was removed for precautionary reasons due to lower back spasms.