CLEVELAND – Just a few inches separated the Indians from a win on Tuesday evening at Progressive Field.
Jason Kipnis came close to a home run that would have brought the Tribe within one score in the fifth. Four innings later, Yan Gomes made a throwing error on a play that could have kept the Astros lead at two runs.
Nevertheless, both game-changing moments played in favor of Houston as Josh Reddick robbed Kipnis and tallied three RBIs at the plate to beat Cleveland by a score of 4-2.
Dallas Keuchel outdueled Josh Tomlin in what shaped out to be his 11th career complete game effort.
Keuchel pitches to strength
Keuchel induced three inning-ending double plays after entering play with a 70% ground ball (44 groundballs) percentage, the best mark in the big leagues.
“He’s always one pitch away from a double play,” said manager Terry Francona. “He’s a really good pitcher. That’s the understatement of the day. He’s a good pitcher that’s on a roll, and that makes it even tougher.
The 2015 AL Cy Young kept the ball in the lower-third of the strike zone to finish with 13 groundouts, five flyouts and five strikeouts on nine innings of two-run ball. Cleveland was aggressive early to keep Keuchel’s pitch count at a level where he could work beyond the seven innings he pitched in each of his first four starts.
“We were trying to get a pitch up and be ready to hit it,” Francona said. “Because he was living down in the zone so much that if you take, and I know we’re down in the score, but if you take, it might be the best pitch you get. And that’s why he’s good.”
The lone damage to the southpaw’s ledger began with a solo home run off the bat of Austin Jackson in the third, his first bomb since October 1, 2015 when he played for the Chicago Cubs.
“Any time somebody hits the ball with authority the other way, it’s real good,” said Francona of Jackson’s opposite field blast. “If he’s here to hit lefties, those are really good swings.”
Michael Brantley added a solo shot of his own in the ninth, but neither bomb was timely enough for a victory.
“[Brantley's] a professional,” Jackson said. “You can tell. It looks like he’s never missed a day. He makes it look easy sometimes. He’s been doing that his whole career.”
Sandwiched between the two home runs was a deep flyout by Kipnis, a ball that traveled 391 feet to center field and would have been a home run had Josh Reddick not leaped to make a web gem of a play.
“[Reddick’s] a good outfielder,” said Kipnis. “He’s done it before. It’s not too surprising when he did it. I would have scraped it over anyway. You know he’s got a chance at balls like that. My reaction was the same reaction anybody else would have.”
Tomlin unable to evade crooked number
The big inning came back to haunt Tomlin despite holding Houston to a .200 (3-for-15) clip through the first four innings.
Tomlin gave up four consecutive base knocks to Yuli Gurriel (single), Evan Gattis (single), Norichika Aoki (RBI double) and Reddick (two-run single) to yield a 3-1 deficit in the fifth.
“You never want to put up a crooked number in any game in one particular inning, especially in four batters,” said Tomlin. “They don't really chase out of the zone that much. If you make mistakes over the middle of the plate, they can change the game within one swing. Top to bottom, they have speed, they have athleticism.”
The right-hander grinded out the sixth frame and left one man stranded to exit to a final line of 6 IP, 8 H, 3 R/ER, 0 BB, 6 K (100 pitches, 68 strikes, 68%).
“It's definitely something to build on,” Tomlin said. “The demise in the first two starts was balls were leaking back over the middle of the plate. Now that you've ironed that out, now it's just trying to go out there and compete and trying to stay in there as long as you can to give your team a chance to win.”
Altuve and Hernandez depart after scary collision
Yan Gomes lifted a popup to shallow right field in between Jose Altuve and Teoscar Hernandez. The two players had a miscommunication and collided to give Gomes a single and prompt their medical staff to attend to the two injuries.
Altuve exited under his own power while Hernandez was carted off the field.
Part two of the three-game set is scheduled for Wednesday night at 6:10 p.m. from Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.
RHP Trevor Bauer (1-2, 6.35) has been dominant against the Astros through five career starts with a 5-0 record and 1.97 ERA in 21 innings pitched. The 26-year-old fired seven shutout innings on May 10, 2016 at Minute Maid Park.
RHP Lance McCullers Jr. (3-0, 3.38) will toe the rubber vs. the Indians for the first time in his MLB tenure. The former 41st overall pick is coming off 6.2 scoreless frames last Thursday vs. the Angels and features 11.63 K/9.