HOUSTON -- One former American League Cy Young Award winner, Dallas Keuchel, made his shortest start in more than a month. Another two-time recipient of the same award, the Indians' Corey Kluber, pitched as advertised. He relentlessly dominated, returning Astro after Astro to their Minute Maid Park dugout in a
HOUSTON -- One former American League Cy Young Award winner, Dallas Keuchel, made his shortest start in more than a month. Another two-time recipient of the same award, the Indians' Corey Kluber, pitched as advertised. He relentlessly dominated, returning Astro after Astro to their Minute Maid Park dugout in a 5-4 loss on Saturday.
Three Indians, Jose Ramirez, Edwin Encarnacion and Jason Kipnis, rocketed first-inning doubles off Keuchel and Michael Brantley chipped a 348-foot solo home run -- a flyout in almost any other Major League ballpark -- into Minute Maid's Crawford Boxes, stealing a 3-0 lead against Houston's left-handed starter in the opening inning.
"That was about as short of a home run as you can give up, at the top of the wall," Keuchel said. "That was frustrating. … It's very frustrating because it could've very easily been 2-1 or 1-0, then I look up and there's four runs on the board. That's a good team. You can't give those guys extra outs or extra pitches to potentially do damage on, and that's what happened."
The Astros, meanwhile, rebounded, but didn't have quite enough firepower to clean up the mess. Carlos Correa slapped a two-run homer in the sixth. Alex Bregman rocketed a solo shot in the eighth and Marwin Gonzalez added a solo homer in the ninth.
Keuchel, who had allowed one run in his previous two starts (15 innings), was replaced after Cleveland tagged him with four runs on six hits in five innings. Keuchel had eclipsed seven innings in each of his past four starts and at least six frames in each of his last six starts. Saturday's outing was his shortest since he lasted four innings on April 10.
"I felt good from the get-go," Keuchel said. "That's why it's so frustrating when I come out of the game with 90-something pitches in five innings with four runs on the board."
Kluber kept the Astros quiet for more than five innings before Correa's two-run homer, the Astros' only damage against Cleveland's star. Kluber cruised through seven innings of two-run ball with 10 strikeouts on 110 pitches.
"He's good at everything," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. "He can do a ton of different things with the baseball. He can make it cut. He can make it sink. He's got an unbelievably good slider. He pitches to the corners. He doesn't concede and give away any at-bats. He's the ultimate Major League starting pitcher."
Then the Indians' bullpen, which sports the worst reliever ERA in baseball, lifted the Astros' offense briefly to life in the eighth and ninth, allowing Bregman and Gonzalez to go deep, but that was all.
"You always feel good whenever you battle until the end," Gonzalez said. "That's what we do all the time. That's what makes this team special. We never quit."
The Astros, who had won three in a row prior to Saturday, are 29-18.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Of the six Indians to make contact against Keuchel in the inning, four recorded exit velocities of more than 104 mph, according to Statcast™. Brantley's home run landed on the short porch and had a 24-percent probability of being a hit. With a 94.3-mph exit velocity, the homer was Cleveland's softest hit of the inning.
Keuchel gave up a home run and three doubles in the first inning Saturday. It's the first time in his career he's allowed four extra-base hits in any single inning.
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The umpires initiated a crew-chief review in the eighth inning after Jose Altuve was initially awarded a home run on a fly ball that hit the padding halfway up the wall in right-center field and ricocheted into the stands. The replay official concluded it should be a ground-rule double.
Lance McCullers (5-2, 3.63 ERA) makes his 10th start of the season when the Astros wrap up their series against the Indians at 7 p.m. CT Saturday at Minute Maid Park, a matchup that will be nationally televised by ESPN. He's 4-1 with a 2.13 ERA in his past six starts. The Astros will face right-hander Carlos Carrasco (5-2, 3.66), who is 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two career starts in Houston.
Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston.