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Indians smack 4 homers, hold off pesky Astros

Tribe bullpen fires 3 1/3 strong innings to preserve lead
MLB.com

CLEVELAND -- Jason Kipnis took a moment to enjoy his fourth-inning home run Saturday night. Given the extent of the Indians second baseman's slump of late, that moment was well-earned.

Kipnis held on to his bat as he strolled out of the batter's box as the no-doubter off Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. disappeared into the right-field stands. The long ball was one of four homers the Indians hit in a much-needed 8-6 victory over Houston at Progressive Field.

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CLEVELAND -- Jason Kipnis took a moment to enjoy his fourth-inning home run Saturday night. Given the extent of the Indians second baseman's slump of late, that moment was well-earned.

Kipnis held on to his bat as he strolled out of the batter's box as the no-doubter off Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. disappeared into the right-field stands. The long ball was one of four homers the Indians hit in a much-needed 8-6 victory over Houston at Progressive Field.

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"He's dying to get going," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We're dying for him to get going. When we get guys like Kip and Edwin [Encarnacion] starting to swing it, I've said it before, we'll have a different gear."

Kipnis' homer completed a 2-for-4 showing in a strong night for the lineup, which proved to be enough to overcome a shaky start by Carlos Carrasco.

Yonder Alonso hit a two-run home run in the fourth off McCullers, his 10th of the season, followed by Kipnis' two batters later. Encarnacion went 3-for-3, including his 11th homer, which knocked out McCullers in the fifth. Michael Brantley joined in with a solo shot in the seventh.

Video: HOU@CLE: Alonso drills 2-run homer to center field

The Indians' top three hitters have provided the bulk of the offense in recent weeks for the club, but it was the Nos. 4-7 hitters who stepped up big on this night. That section of the lineup accounted for seven RBIs and six runs against McCullers, who exited after 4 1/3 frames and was dealt his third loss of the season.

That was an important development in Kipnis' eyes.

"We know we can't rely on those three guys the whole time. It's too much to ask," Kipnis said. "They've almost done it, though; that's how good the three of them have been. But we know we have a very good lineup and a very capable lineup, too. It was nice. Eddy, Zo [Alonso], me and a couple other guys have good games and give them a break for a chance."

Video: HOU@CLE: Encarnacion clubs 2-run jack to center field

Kipnis, who entered Saturday hitting .178 in 48 games, admitted his good game came at an ideal time.

"For about a week or two, the swing has felt very close," said Kipnis, whose homer was his second of the season. "I knew it was just going to take one at-bat or one swing to kind of get that feeling back in. Hopefully it's the start of something nice."

Carrasco managed to give the Indians (25-25) just enough to get past the American League West-leading Astros, going 5 2/3 innings and allowing five runs on seven hits, with eight strikeouts. Despite giving up home runs to Jose Altuve and Tony Kemp, the right-hander improved to 6-3 on the year.

"That's a great pick-me-up right there," Indians closer Cody Allen said. "Our offense did an unbelievable job."

Video: HOU@CLE: Francona discusses Carrasco, Kipnis in win

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Bullpen seals win: Cleveland's relief corps, which entered the night with an MLB-high 6.23 ERA after allowing 14 runs over the past two games against Houston, logged 3 1/3 strong innings to lock down Saturday's win. Zach McAllister went 1 1/3 innings, Tyler Olson recorded an out on one pitch, Dan Otero induced a key double play and Allen worked the ninth for his eighth save of the season.

Video: HOU@CLE: Allen retires Bregman to nail down the save

"The guys who threw tonight, there's a track record of success down there for a lot of guys," said Allen. "This season has not been easy, by any means. It's a hard game. It's a humbling game. It's unforgiving. We've faced some pretty good clubs, especially this last little stretch here."

Still streaking: In the seventh inning, Brantley drilled a full-count fastball from Astros reliever Brad Peacock to dead center for his eighth home run of the season. The shot also extended the Tribe outfielder's hitting streak to 15 games, the longest active run in the Majors and tied with Francisco Lindor for the longest streak of the year by an Indians batter. During his streak, Brantley has hit .354 (23-for-65) with five home runs.

Video: HOU@CLE: Brantley extends lead with solo homer in 7th

SOUND SMART
Allen's save was the 130th of his career, moving the right-hander past Doug Jones (129) and into sole possession of second place on the Indians' all-time list. Bob Wickman holds Cleveland's club record with 139 career saves.

HE SAID IT
"That stat [130 saves by Allen] in general, that's a byproduct of playing for some really good teams, being able to pitch behind some really good [pitchers]. Not only bullpen guys, but our backbone of this team the last few years has been the rotation. And those horses that we run out there every single day, they're the reason that a lot of us are able to have success following what they do on a daily basis. I've been extremely fortunate." -- Allen, on moving up the Indians' all-time saves list

REPLAY REVIEW
With the Astros trailing, 7-5, Alex Bregman opened the seventh with a chopper up the middle. Shortstop Lindor ranged to his left, gloved the ball and fired to Alonso at first. Bregman was initially ruled safe, but Cleveland challenged the call, which was overturned following a replay review. Altuve then delivered a triple to deep center field, which would have scored a run.

Video: HOU@CLE: Lindor throws out Bregman on overturned call

UP NEXT
During their days at UCLA, right-handers Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer were the Friday and Saturday starters, respectively, for the Bruins. Now the former teammates will face off Sunday for the first time as Major Leaguers in a 1:10 p.m. ET clash between the Astros and Indians at Progressive Field. Bauer (4-3, 2.35 ERA) is in the midst of a strong season for Cleveland, while Cole (5-1, 1.86 ERA) has been one of baseball's best arms out of the chute.

Casey Harrison is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland. Follow him on Twitter @Casey_Harrison1.

Cleveland Indians