Ubaldo Jimenez delivered a quality start and combined with three Tribe relievers to shut out the Astros 2-0 in the opener of a three-game series in Houston. The victory was the Indians’ fourth in a row and improved their record to 37-32; combined with the White Sox loss to the Brewers, the win upped their lead to 1.5 games in the AL Central.
Jimenez improved his record to 7-5 by working 6.2 scoreless innings (110 pitches), allowing four hits while striking out eight and walking four. Joe Smith faced one batter in the seventh and struck him out, Vinnie Pestano worked a scoreless eighth, and Chris Perez came in and struck out the side in the 9th to earn his AL-leading 23rd save. Astros starter Lucas Harrell was the hard-luck loser and saw his record drop to 6-6 on the year despite allowing only one run on two hits while striking out a career high nine and walking three in seven innings of work.
The Indians jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the first inning on an Asdrubal Cabrera sacrifice fly that scored Shin-Soo Choo, who had led off the game with a triple. Jimenez had to work to make the lead hold up as Lucas Harrell held the Indians hitless from then until Johnny Damon singled in the 7th inning.
A key moment in the game for Jimenez came in the top of the fifth inning when he had to work around an error and an infield hit to escape damage. After allowing a leadoff single to Chris Johnson, Jimenez got catcher Chris Snyder to hit a slow roller to second base. Jason Kipnis fielded the ball and flipped it to Cabrera, whose relay throw resembled a shot put toss and ended up in the stands to move Johnson into scoring position. Harrell then tapped a slow roller out of the reach of Lonnie Chisenhall for an infield single to bring Jose Altuve to the plate with the bases loaded and one out. Altuve worked the count full before sending a lazy fly ball out to left fielder Johnny Damon for the second out before Jordan Schafer struck out to end the inning.
The Indians missed a great opportunity of their own in the top of the seven. With one out in the inning, the Indians loaded the bases on back-to-back walks to Carlos Santana and Michael Brantley and a Damon single. Casey Kotchman sent a fly ball toward the line in right and Brian Bogusevic caught the ball and fired a bullet to the plate to nail Santana trying to score.
This fantastic throw set up the famous cliche “How many times does a guy make a great play to end an inning and ends up leading off the next inning?” as Bogusevic opened the bottom of the inning with a leadoff double. The Astros were unable to advance him to third as Jimenez retired both Johnson and Snyder before walking pinch-hitter Justin Maxwell. Manny Acta went to the bullpen and called on Joe Smith, who came in and struck out Altuve to end the inning.
Vinnie Pestano came in to work the 8th inning and although he retired the side in order it was anything but a stress-free inning. Jordan Schafer hit a ball to the wall in right that Choo raced back to make a nice catch on, Jed Lowrie sent a fly ball that drove Choo to the warning track, and Carlos Lee hit a screamer to Brantley in left to end the inning.
The Indians added an insurance run in the top of the ninth thanks to a defensive miscue by the Astros. Asdrubal Cabrera led off the inning with a pop fly into foul territory that neither third baseman Chris Johnson nor catcher Chris Snyder took charge of. The ball fell safely between them to give Cabrera new life which he took advantage of by lining a single up the middle. Astros manager Brad Mills went to the bullpen and brought in left-hander Fernando Abad who immediately walked Kipnis before striking out Carlos Santana for the first out. Brantley delivered a single to right that scored Cabrera from second but Jason Kipnis tried to score from first on an overthrow to the plate and was thrown out.
Chris Perez came in and struck out the side in the ninth to earn his 23rd save on the year as the Indians cruised to a 2-0 victory.
The Good: Ubaldo Jimenez delivered a quality start and Chris Perez saved his 23rd consecutive game by striking out the side in the 9th.
The Bad: Lucas Harrell entered the game with a K/9 rate of 4.41 and the opposition had a batting average against of .264. Despite those numbers the Indians whiffed 9 times and only had 2-hits in his 7 innings of work.
- The victory improved the Indians’ record to 8-3 on Friday nights and 18-6 in series opening games (8-3 on the road).
- Since moving to the leadoff spot in the batting order on May 14th, Shin-Soo Choo has been the ignition source for the Indians offense, hitting .304 (45-for-148) including 15 doubles, a triple, five homers, 12 RBI, and 31 runs scored.
- The Indians are now 33-18 versus right handed starting pitchers.