CLEVELAND -- After falling into an early hole, the Astros were able to power their way back against the Indians on Thursday at Progressive Field.
Perhaps the team's hottest hitter -- Alex Bregman -- and the newest player to the active roster -- Jake Marisnick -- clubbed three-run homers in back-to-back innings to help Houston pull away en route to an 8-2 win in the series opener. That provided more than enough offense to help starter Charlie Morton move to 7-0, with the seven wins tied for the Major League lead.
"It never feels easy, especially against a good team," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "For us to put up back-to-back big innings is tough for them to come back. It's a nice way to start a long series, and we've got a long battle ahead with some of their strong pitching we're about to face."
The Indians took an early 2-0 lead on Michael Brantley's third-inning two-run single, but the Astros started their first rally with two outs in the fifth. Tony Kemp reached after being hit in the right elbow, and George Springer walked.
Bregman worked a 2-2 count, and after seeing three straight fastballs from Indians starter Mike Clevinger, he clubbed a hanging slider a projected 385 feet, according to Statcast™, over the left-field fence. The ball came off his bat at 98.8 mph and registered as the game's first barrel.
Thursday was Bregman's first four-RBI game of the season and his first overall since May 14, 2017, when he hit a grand slam at Yankee Stadium. It also extending his hitting streak to eight, tying his season best, during which he has slashed .379/.471/.724.
"That's one of the things that this offense does a very good job of -- swinging at good pitches to hit," Bregman said. "When we did tonight, we drove in runs, and it was special to see."
The Astros continued their hot hitting in the sixth, with Carlos Correa singling to right field and Yuli Gurriel singling to left with one out to end Clevinger's night. Pinch-hitter Max Stassi then singled home Correa, which brought up Marisnick, who had just been recalled from Triple-A Fresno on Wednesday.
Facing Neil Ramirez, Marisnick also worked a 2-2 count and barreled a fastball over the plate a projected 421 feet to center field. The ball left Marisnick's bat at 108 mph -- good for a 99 percent hit probability -- and gave the Astros a 7-2 lead.
"That's the special thing about this offense, they can kill you one through nine," Bregman said. "The guys come in off the bench, Stassi came in with a really special at-bat."
Bregman came through once again later in the sixth with an RBI double to extend the lead to six.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
After Brantley's two-run single, Morton calmed down in a hurry -- he only faced 10 batters over his final three scoreless frames. He nearly ran into trouble in the fourth when he gave up a leadoff hit to Melky Cabrera, but Cabrera was tagged out at second trying to extend the single into a double. Morton walked the following batter but coaxed a double-play ball out of Roberto Perez to end the frame. He finished with five strikeouts in six innings.
"Having my breaking ball and throwing my breaking ball for strikes [was key]," Morton said. "That allows me to get back in counts. Even in the sixth inning there, I couldn't throw my fastball for a strike. I didn't know where the ball was going, and that's been a theme for me this year. I'm really not throwing the ball where I want to, but my secondary stuff has been good."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Kemp has hit a cool .389 since being recalled but showed just how valuable he can be in the field in the seventh inning. The left fielder was shaded well toward center with left-hander Jason Kipnis at the plate, but Kipnis sent a fly ball to the left-field corner. Still, Kemp was able to cover 103 feet in 5.6 seconds and made a spectacular leaping grab for the first out of the inning. The ball had a 31 percent catch probability, and it was his first four-star catch of the season.
"If it lands on the grass or it lands on the track, we've got a chance to catch it," Hinch said. "We have great range out there, especially this configuration of the outfield. It's one of the things we're comfortable with. As he was tracking it, I felt like if it was going to not get off the wall, he was going to catch it." More >
HE SAID IT
"George called it before the at-bat, which I give him credit. Now he calls a lot that may not work out that way, but we have to give props to Springer and obviously to Jake for just a good night." -- Hinch, on Marisnick's home run
In a battle of American League Cy Young Award winners, Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel will take on Indians ace Corey Kluber on Friday at 6:10 p.m. CT at Progressive Field. Keuchel gave up four runs on six hits over five innings against the Indians in his last start Saturday, losing to Kluber in Houston. He gave up one homer, walked two and struck out three.