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Cleveland comes up short in 3-2 loss to Astros

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Cleveland is winless in the month of July

MLB: Houston Astros at Cleveland Indians Ken Blaze-USA TODAY Sports

The Houston Astros — four years removed from the worst cheating scandal in baseball history, for which none of their players have shown remorse after receiving no punishment from MLB — extended Cleveland’s skid to five games Saturday night, sending them to a 3-2 loss.

Since scoring a season-high 13 runs Monday night against the Tigers, Cleveland’s lineup has been missing in action. All they could muster against Houston starting pitcher Jake Odorizzi were two hits in the first six innings, scratching across a run in the fourth inning simply because Bradley Zimmer was able to get down the first base line quickly avoid to foil the back half of a potential inning-ending double play. To keep fans from getting the impression a rally was in the works, Zimmer was promptly caught in a rundown trying to steal second base.

Houston tried to squeeze Odorizzi dry, sending him back out for the seventh inning. Back-to-back doubles by Eddie Rosario and Harold Ramirez cut the Astros’ lead to 3-2 and ended Odorizzi’s night. With the tying run at second base and no outs, the bottom of Cleveland’s lineup — Bradley Zimmer, Ernie Clement, and Austin Hedges — did what the bottom of Cleveland’s lineup does, leaving Ramirez stranded at third by the end of the inning.

Offensively, the tone was set early in the game when Ernie Clement laid down a sacrifice bunt in the second inning with one out, Bradley Zimmer on first, and Cleveland trailing 1-0. Even with a runner in scoring position, Austin Hedges grounded out to end the inning.

On the mound for Cleveland, Eli Morgan pitched well enough. The Astros feasted on his four-seam fastball early, with Myles Straw crushing a leadoff double to the wall in left-center on the first pitch of the game before coming around to score after a pair of singles. Morgan settled down after limiting the damage in the opening frame, recording a pair of scoreless innings before surrendering a pair of solo shots to Carlos Correa and Abraham Toro in the fourth. He went five innings, giving up five hits, three earned runs, and two walks.

The bullpen managed to hold serve over the last four innings, hoping the lineup would hold up their end of the bargain. Blake Parker erased a leadoff walk in the sixth inning with a double play before needing an inning-ending groundout to strand baserunners at first and second. Nick Sandlin pitched a scoreless seventh, erasing a walk of his own with an inning-ending double play.

In the eighth inning, Sandlin allowed the first two hitters he faced to reach, but James Karinchak came in and extinguished that fire. Karinchak made trouble of his own in the ninth, issuing a pair of two-out walks before Phil Maton had to be brought in to induce an inning-ending groundout.

The Astros didn’t even need Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley in the lineup. The former was given the night off by manager Dusty Baker and the latter was a late scratch due to side discomfort. Cleveland was also without their José, as José Ramírez was absent from the lineup due to elbow discomfort. Franmil Reyes also sat after making his return from the injured list Friday night.