The Houston Astros had run off six consecutive series victories for a 29-12 record, the best in the majors. The last team to claim a series win over the Astros was Cleveland back in late April.
The reigning American League champion Indians defeated the Astros again Friday, 5-3, behind three home runs in the opener of a three-game weekend series at Minute Maid Park.
Charlie Morton (5-3) allowed the homers to Edwin Encarnacion, Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall in his 5.1 innings of work to absorb the loss.
Cleveland starter Trevor Bauer continued his success against the Astros, earning the win while allowing three runs in 5.2 innings. Bauer is 7-0 lifetime against Houston in seven career starts.
“He has certainly had his run of good games against us,” said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. “But I feel like every time we face him we are on the brink of being able to break through in a big inning we just haven’t been able to do it.”
The Astros were able to break through for the games first two runs. Carlos Beltran’s RBI single in the first inning plated Jose Altuve. Josh Reddick upped the lead to 2-0 with a solo home run off Bauer in the third inning.
Encarnacion hit the first of the trio of Tribe blasts, with a two-run shot in the fourth that tied the game. Kipnis’ homer leading off the fifth gave the Indians the lead for good. Chisenhall homered an inning later for a 4-2 advantage.
“Execution has to be better,” Morton said. “I have to be able to establish a second pitch, if not a third pitch especially third time through the order.
“My stuff is plenty good to be OK later in the game, it’s just not,” he continued. “It’s not playing.”
Carlos Correa did pull the Stros back within a run at 4-3 with an opposite field homer in the sixth inning, his sixth of the year.
However Cleveland added one insurance run and got 3.1 hitless and scoreless innings of relief from Boone Logan, Bryan Shaw, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen. Allen threw a perfect ninth for his 11th save of the season.
The Indians (21-19) have had an up and down beginning to their campaign, but sporting the best bullpen ERA in the majors (1.85), they could present a formidable opponent to the Astros in October should both teams reach the post-season.
“They have a World Series caliber bullpen,” Hinch explained. “We know it. We have seen it. They are really good at it. They are tough to beat.”
The two teams will meet Saturday afternoon in game two of the series. Mike Fiers (1-1 5.75) will start for the Astros against Mike Clevinger (1-1 2.61) in a 3:10 p.m. first pitch at Minute Maid.
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