CLEVELAND -- After a pitchers' duel between former Cy Young Award winners on Friday, the Astros finally broke through once Indians ace Corey Kluber left the game.
Kluber stymied the Astros for 6 1/3 scoreless innings, bettering counterpart Dallas Keuchel, but Jose Altuve's game-tying two-run double sparked a four-run eighth inning against the Indians' top relievers. A massive output the following inning helped the Astros to an 11-2 win at Progressive Field, their fifth straight victory.
These late-inning rallies have become commonplace for the Astros, who did all of their scoring in the last two frames. They now lead the league with 99 runs from the seventh inning on.
"We had a really good energy in the last three innings," Marwin Gonzalez said. "We're playing 100 percent baseball. We never give up. They have good pitching, and they shut us down for seven innings, but that's what this team is capable of doing, and that's what's special about this team. We can do damage in one or two innings."
George Springer led off the eighth against Andrew Miller with a double to left field, and Alex Bregman then worked a five-pitch walk. Altuve jumped on a first-pitch slider, driving the ball into the left-field corner to tie the game at 2 and end Miller's night.
"Obviously we're trying to score one run there, and Marwin's as good as anybody we have at that play," Astros manager AJ Hinch said. "We have one of the fastest baserunners at third base. They're playing the infield in for a reason. The game's on the line. To be able to execute a play like that is huge."
Things kept unravelling for Allen, as he gave up a single to Yuli Gurriel, hit Evan Gattis with a pitch and walked Max Stassi with the bases loaded before being removed for Dan Otero. Although Otero stopped the eighth-inning rally, Houston poured on seven more runs in the ninth, highlighted by Gattis' two-run single and a towering Springer three-run homer to cap the scoring.
The Astros came into the game just 1-16 when trailing after seven innings, with the lone win coming on May 15 against the Angels. The comeback win secured the season series for the Astros, as they took a 4-1 lead with two games remaining.
"It seems like until we see the 27th out against us, we're going to keep playing," Altuve said. "We can hit homers with Springer, Bregman, Marwin. We can bunt. We can play defense. That's why this team is special: We do a little bit of everything."
Keuchel was excellent over six innings by generating 12 ground balls -- nine of which went for outs -- and striking out five, but he was outdueled by Kluber. The Indians' ace struck out seven, with no walks, and had only two innings with multiple baserunners.
The Astros' saving grace vs. Kluber was that they worked his pitch count high enough to chase him after starting a rally in the seventh. They came up empty-handed when J.D. Davis grounded into a double play with the bases loaded, but they got to the Indians' bullpen in the eighth, a unit that now has a Major League-high 6.23 ERA.
"That's the key," Gonzalez said. "It's no secret that they're having a hard time right now. They have a pretty good bullpen, but they're having a hard time. When you have a pitcher like Kluber, you want to get him out as soon as possible. He threw the ball really good today, as always, but we got the best part of the game in the last three innings."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Springer had an odd moment in the first inning after opening the game with a single to right field. On a 3-2 count to Bregman, the next hitter, Springer attempted to steal second base but pulled up early after Bregman struck out, perhaps thinking the pitch was ball four. Yan Gomes' throw beat him by so much that Springer turned around to head back to the dugout before being tagged out.
"That was not a good play, and he knows it," Hinch said. "The point of that play is to just start the runners. Bregman's having a really good at-bat, but you've got to keep playing, and he knows it. He made a mental mistake."
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HE SAID IT
"We won the latter half of the game pretty convincingly because we just continued to have really good at-bats. In the eighth inning, we had 10 quality at-bats. You put those at-bats together against the likes of Miller and Allen, that's a good sign." -- Hinch
Lance McCullers had perhaps his best start of the season against the Indians on Sunday, when he threw seven innings of scoreless one-hit baseball. He struck out eight while issuing two walks. McCullers hasn't given up a home run in six straight starts. Carlos Carrasco starts for the Tribe at 6:15 p.m. CT on FOX.