HOUSTON -- Mike Clevinger's streak of well-pitched games against the Astros is still intact, but unfortunately for the Indians, his effort Friday night at Minute Maid Park wasn't enough to lead his team to a win.An off night for the offense resulted in a 4-1 Tribe loss in the opener
HOUSTON -- Mike Clevinger's streak of well-pitched games against the Astros is still intact, but unfortunately for the Indians, his effort Friday night at Minute Maid Park wasn't enough to lead his team to a win.
An off night for the offense resulted in a 4-1 Tribe loss in the opener in Houston. It was only the second loss to the Astros dating back to the beginning of last season; the Indians were 5-1 vs. Houston in 2017.
Clevinger, who entered this game with a 1.04 ERA over two prior starts vs. Houston, worked around myriad baserunners throughout his 6 1/3 innings of work and entered the seventh having yielded one run -- a solo homer by George Springer in the third.
But walks ended up deciding the outcome. Clevinger issued free passes to Marwin Gonzalez and Derek Fisher to open the seventh, and both scored.
Gonzalez trotted home with ease on Tony Kemp's ground-rule double, a hit that would have easily scored both runs had an Astros fan not interfered with the play. The fan was peppered with boos as he was escorted out of the game, but it ended up being a non-issue when second baseman Jason Kipnis, playing in, was unable to throw out Fisher at the plate on Springer's hard-hit ground ball.
"I thought he battled his [tail] off," manager Terry Francona said of Clevinger. "It seemed like there was traffic all night. He got some huge double plays, made really good pitches with traffic and he kept us in the game. Because of the way he's pitching, he's earned the right to go out there [in the seventh]. It's tough when you walk the first two, but I thought he battled all night."
Clevinger said the walks weren't a sign of fatigue -- though he did reach 106 pitches in this outing -- as much as they were an indication that he didn't have a great feel for his go-to pitch, the changeup.
"It's my get-back-into-the-count pitch and today, every once in a while, it stayed true, and sometimes it cut, and then sometimes it was my changeup and it was down," he said. "I think trying to find that in that last inning against lefties -- that's my pitch. We'd go to the changeup and it was staying straight, staying true, and then every once in a while, it just dove away. I struggled with that pitch today."
The Indians managed two baserunners through the first six innings against Houston righty Charlie Morton, breaking through -- briefly -- in the seventh on Edwin Encarnacion's 10th homer of the season.
Morton yielded one run over seven innings and lowered his ERA on the season to 1.94.
"He kind of came as advertised," Francona said. "It's really good stuff. It's velocity, it's offspeed. It's really good."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The Indians' best chance to score came -- and went -- in the eighth. Houston reliever Chris Devenski yielded consecutive hits to Michael Brantley and Jose Ramirez, and Encarnacion drew a six-pitch walk, taking an 84 mph slider for ball four, loading the bases.
Devenski jumped ahead of Yonder Alonso with two quick strikes, and followed with a changeup in the dirt. The threat ended when Alonso swung at a 96 mph offering and popped out to shortstop Carlos Correa.
Since the start of 2015, Encarnacion has hit nine homers with 15 RBIs in 20 games vs. the Astros. In his last five games against Houston, he has three homers and five RBIs.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Greg Allen, who usually plays center, flawlessly tracked a long fly ball by Alex Bregman in the opening frame, which, had it traveled just a few inches farther, surely would have cleared the right-field wall for a two-run homer. Instead, Allen leaped at the wall and with perfect timing snagged the ball just before it hit the stands, robbing Bregman.
"There's luck that goes into it," Allen said. "You're trying to keep track of the ball, pacing out your steps, where the wall is. You're doing the best you can to be able to get up without coming into contact with the wall as you're going up. There's a lot that goes into it and I was fortunate to make a play on it."
HE SAID IT
"There's not much room for error. they're pretty loaded, top to bottom. But we're right there with them. There's not anything they have that we don't have. They're not that special." -- Clevinger, on the Astros' lineup
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
The Indians unsuccessfully challenged a tag play at the plate in the seventh inning. Fisher was called safe at the plate on Springer's infield grounder, sliding in past the tag of catcher Yan Gomes. After viewing all relevant angles, the replay official could not definitively determine that the fielder tagged the runner prior to the runner touching home plate.
Right-hander Corey Kluber will face the Astros on Saturday at 4:10 p.m. ET on an extended five days' rest, after defeating the Royals on Mother's Day last Sunday at Progressive Field. Kluber has allowed three runs or fewer in his past 21 starts, dating back to Aug. 1. Saturday's game will feature two AL Cy Young Award winners, as the Astros will counter with lefty Dallas Keuchel, who won the award in 2015.
Alyson Footer is a national correspondent for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter @alysonfooter.