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Cole rights ship but 'unlucky' in defeat

Former UCLA teammate Bauer outduels Houston righty
@brianmctaggart
April 26, 2019

HOUSTON -- A couple of front-row homers were the only damage the Indians managed on Thursday night against Astros starter Gerrit Cole, who wasn’t about to let them ruin the vibe on what was otherwise a strong rebound outing from the veteran right-hander. Coming off the worst start of his

HOUSTON -- A couple of front-row homers were the only damage the Indians managed on Thursday night against Astros starter Gerrit Cole, who wasn’t about to let them ruin the vibe on what was otherwise a strong rebound outing from the veteran right-hander.

Coming off the worst start of his career -- allowing nine runs in 4 1/3 innings against the Rangers on Saturday -- Cole struck out 10 batters and held the Indians to three hits and two runs over seven innings in a 2-1 loss in the series opener at Minute Maid Park.

“I kind of felt a little unlucky,” Cole said. “They got the ball up in the air, so it’s just kind of the way it bounced for us today.”

Leonys Martin hit a 340-foot homer to right field in the third and Jake Bauers led off the fifth with a 343-foot homer into the front row of the Crawford Boxes in the fifth. That was enough for Indians starter Trevor Bauer -- Cole’s teammate at UCLA -- to win by holding the Astros to one run in eight innings while pitching around six walks.

Bauer, who admitted last year he had a rocky relationship with Cole while in college, improved to 8-0 with a 2.90 ERA in nine regular-season starts against Houston. The Astros knocked him around in the 2018 American League Division Series.

“As a competitor, you want to pitch against the elite guys and really good guys,” Cole said. “He’s off to a tremendous start. It was a good fight. It was fun to compete and it’s good for UCLA baseball, it’s good for our program.”

Cole, who gave up five runs in the first inning on Saturday in Arlington, started the game with two outs before walking a pair. He then reached back and struck out Carlos Gonzalez with a 99.1 mph fastball -- his highest velocity of the game -- to end the inning.

“The fastball was just kind of coming out a little hot in the first,” Cole said. “I made some good pitches and then just didn’t get a couple of calls. Then the curveball I thought I was spinning well, but it just had more depth than I was anticipating. Once I got a little better feel for both of those, I was able to hone them in.”

Cole permitted only four baserunners outside of the two homers. His last pitch, No. 103 for his outing, was a 98.7 mph fastball to strike out Roberto Perez to end the seventh. Cole has delivered five quality starts in six outings this year, and he knows the best is yet to come.

“I’ve been pretty critical of my performance with myself, but I’ve given my team a chance to win outside of the last start -- a pretty good chance every time,” Cole said. “ I’m just trying to not overcorrect and just make little tweaks. With that said, sometimes you’ve got to just pitch better in these games because the other guy is not going to give up very many runs. You end up on the short end of the stick there.

“I’m feeling strong, and my stuff is looking really good, and so I just keep trying to give us a good chance to win like I’ve always done. We’ll get on one of those rolls here again real soon.”

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter.