Corey Kluber, Indians blank Astros 2-0
CLEVELAND (AP) — Corey Kluber looked and acted like he always does after a game, stoic and sedate.
Same steady guy.
This time, though, he was a winner.
Kluber shut down Houston for 6 2-3 innings and got his first win since May 28, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 2-0 victory over the Astros on Tuesday night.
Despite pitching well enough to win, Kluber (4-9) went 0-4 with two no-decisions in his previous six starts. But the defending AL Cy Young winner was on his game against the Astros, who managed just five singles and only got one runner to reach third base.
“It feels good,” Kluber said. “Anytime you win it beats the alternative.”
Zach McAllister finished the seventh, worked the eighth and Bryan Shaw, filling in for closer Cody Allen, finished up for his second save.
Michael Brantley homered in the sixth off Astros rookie Vince Velasquez (0-1) as the Indians snapped a three-game losing streak.
Velasquez was the pitcher of record for the first time in his sixth career start. He joins Hideo Nomo (1995), Marc Valdez (1995-96) and Chris Brock (1997) as the only pitchers in history to begin their careers with five starts without a decision.
The right-hander allowed only six hits in 6 1-3 innings and struck out five, but didn’t get any help from Houston’s offense.
Kluber knows how that feels. The right-hander came in receiving the second-lowest run support average (2.43 runs) in the majors, but did all he could to make the two runs he got on Tuesday stand up.
“He had to work,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “He was up a little bit and didn’t have his best cutter of the year, but he really used his fastball effectively and he pitched inside from the start.”
Kluber also received a major boost from his defense in the sixth while clinging to a 1-0 lead. First, center fielder Michael Bourn raced into the gap in right-center to make a lunging catch on Preston Tucker’s liner. Then, rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor made a spinning stop on a hard grounder before throwing to first where Carlos Santana picked the ball to nip Carlos Correa at first.
“Those are two huge plays,” Kluber said. “If either one of those guys is safe it kind of changes the complexion of the whole inning. Really big plays.”
With seven strikeouts, Kluber (148) moved past White Sox ace Chris Sale (147) for the major-league lead.
“We had good at-bats most of the night against a really good pitcher, but nothing to show for it,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “We had a small margin for error against Kluber, turned out to be no margin. We couldn’t solve him.”
Looking for a spark, Francona shuffled his lineup, dropping struggling Carlos Santana into the No. 7 hole for the first time this season. Santana got two hits.
But it was David Murphy’s two-out RBI double that gave Cleveland a 1-0 lead in the first. Brantley singled and scored all the way from first when Murphy pulled a pitch from Velasquez over the right fielder Tucker’s head.
It was Kluber’s first lead at home since May 23, and Brantley doubled it in the sixth by drilling a first pitch from Velasquez into the right-field seats for fifth homer and first since May 14.
“It felt good,” said Brantley, who has been battling a back issue all season. “It was a big swing at that time in the game.”
Francona said Allen has been dealing with a stiff back for several days and the club wanted to be cautious. Francona said Allen pitched a bullpen Tuesday and is available to pitch Wednesday.
All-Star second baseman Jason Kipnis went 0-for-3 and had his home hitting streak stopped at 29 games, two shy of matching Hal Trosky’s team record set in 1936.
Indians: RHP Josh Tomlin is scheduled to make a minor league rehab appearance on Friday at Double-A Akron. The 30-year-old has been on the disabled list since undergoing shoulder surgery in April.
Astros: RHP Dan Straily makes his first start this season after being recalled from the minors last week. The 26-year-old, acquired in an offseason trade from the Cubs, allowed four runs in 4 2-3 innings in a relief appearance against Boston on Friday.
Indians: RHP Trevor Bauer pitched six hitless innings against Houston in his season debut on April 9. He’s 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two career appearances versus the Astros.
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