HOUSTON -- An Astros team that for a little more than a year has relied heavily on the long ball to win games put up a five spot in the third inning on Indians starter Corey Kluber and added two more runs in a 7-1 win Monday over the Indians
HOUSTON -- An Astros team that for a little more than a year has relied heavily on the long ball to win games put up a five spot in the third inning on Indians starter Corey Kluber and added two more runs in a 7-1 win Monday over the Indians without homering.
That's fine with Astros manager A.J. Hinch, who was pleased that the first six Astros reached base in the third inning on quality at-bats that included two doubles, three singles and a walk. And the Astros' seventh batter recorded the first out of the inning but still drove in a run on a ground ball.
"We put up seven really tough at-bats against him and ended up with five runs," Hinch said. "Not all of them were perfect at-bats, but they were all very competitive at-bats and none of them left the yard.
"It showed that we can put up at-bat after at-bat after at-bat with a purpose and not sit back and rely on the three-run homer."
For only the second time all season, the Astros (13-20) have won back-to-back games. The Astros have won their last two games without the benefit of a home run, and the last time Houston won consecutive games without homering was Sept. 9-10, 2014.
To the benefit of starting pitcher Mike Fiers (3-1), the Astros put the ball in play in the third inning. Luis Valbuena, who had two hits and scored twice in the game, led off the frame with a single, followed by a Jason Castro double. They scored on Jose Altuve's two-run double that Hinch said turned the tide in Houston's favor.
Altuve and George Springer scored on Colby Rasmus' single with the bases loaded to put the Astros ahead, 4-0. Carlos Correa, who singled following a walk to Springer, scored the fifth run on a Marwin Gonzalez groundout.
"That five-run spot was huge," said Fiers, who allowed only three hits over his seven innings, compared to Kluber lasting only 2 2/3. "I think the momentum shifted right there. Getting some runs early, I was in a good spot where I could make a couple mistakes here and there."
The five runs in the third tied Houston's season high for most runs scored in a single inning.
"It was a big inning for us," Rasmus said. "Definitely against a guy like that to get him out of the game early to start a series."
Richard Dean is a contributor to MLB.com based in Houston.