Astros searching for ways to top AL champs

Houston has lost 4 of 5 vs. Cleveland; all 5 games decided by 3 runs or fewer

May 20th, 2017

HOUSTON -- Perhaps the Astros will have better success against the Indians if they meet them this fall than they have so far in the regular season.

Behind seven-plus shutout innings from starting pitcher Mike Clevinger, the Indians beat the Astros for the fourth time in five games, 3-0, on Saturday at Minute Maid Park. The Astros have lost consecutive games for the first time since -- who else? -- the Indians beat them April 26 and 27 in Cleveland.

All five of the games between the teams have been decided by three runs or fewer, including a pair of one-run Cleveland wins in April.

"I think these games have been close enough to where some small advantages one way or the other have really flipped the game," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Obviously for them, they've swung the bats pretty well the last couple of nights. Once they get the lead, they're really tough. They play pretty good defense, they have a good bullpen that puts a lot of anxiousness and pressure on the middle part of the game when you start losing that lead. They tack on runs. These games have proven that some small victories either way within the game can be a big difference."

The Indians, the reigning American League champions, and the Astros, who have the best record in the AL, will play for the final time in the regular season Sunday, but the two teams could collide in the postseason at some point. It's too early to put too much stock in May results, except to speculate a playoff series between the two figures to be entertaining.

"They're a good team," Astros outfielder said. "We saw that last year when they went to the World Series and what they did. They're going to be good. They've got a great bullpen. Their [starting] staff is pretty decent, too, and their lineup is stellar. You have to give them credit, and they're playing better against us than we are against them right now."

In the five games, the Indians have outscored the Astros, 21-16, and outhit them, 41-38. The Astros are hitting .226 against the Indians with a 4.19 team ERA, and the Indians are hitting .258 with a 2.60 team ERA.

"It's a short series, but it's nice to see that you can match up well with a team like that," Indians reliever said. "We came in and they were swinging the bat well. All the video showed that. All the numbers showed that. For us to come in and pitch the way we have and have at-bats the way we have, hopefully it's a building block for a nice little run."

The Indians had lost five of seven games entering the series but have gotten back on track against an Astros team that had won nine of 10 games prior to Friday.

"They're playing good and pitching good," Astros designated hitter said. "They're hitting, and we haven't hit."