Hernandez, Indians top Astros 1st time in 6 tries this year
HOUSTON (AP) — One big swing from Cesar Hernandez kept the Cleveland Indians from a season sweep by the Houston Astros.
Rookie Ernie Clement had a season-high three RBIs and Hernandez hit a tiebreaking home run in the seventh inning to lift the Indians to a 5-4 win over the Astros on Wednesday night for their first win in seven tries against Houston this year.
“We’re trying our (butts) off to compete and it’s hard against some of these teams, but I’m proud of these guys,” manager Terry Francona said. “We’re going to get on that plane feeling a little bit better than we did a couple of days ago.”
It was 4-all with one out in the seventh when Hernandez, who earlier hit an RBI double, sent a pitch from Austin Pruitt (0-1) into the seats in right field. It was his 16th homer this season, eclipsing the career-high 15 he hit in 2018 and matched last year.
“His batting average is lower than he’s accustomed to,” Francona said of Hernandez, who is hitting .226. “But he’s also sitting on 16 home runs and a lot of them have been big ones, so it’s certainly been helpful. He’s a good pro and shows up every day.”
Rookie starter Eli Morgan permitted three hits and three runs in five-plus innings. Bryan Shaw (3-3) allowed two hits and a run in the sixth and James Karinchak pitched a perfect ninth for his 11th save.
Jose Altuve and Kyle Tucker both homered for the Astros for the second straight game.
“This is about the eighth time we’ve had a chance to sweep and that final game gets away from us,” manager Dusty Baker said. “We’ve just got to come back and play better baseball.”
Houston starter Lance McCullers Jr. gave up six hits and four runs while striking out eight in five-plus innings.
“It’s a frustrating loss for me,” he said. “I feel like I pitched pretty well. Just not much to show for it.”
Yu Chang singled to start the third and advanced on a sacrifice bunt by Clement. Hernandez doubled with two outs to put Cleveland up 1-0.
The Astros tied it when Altuve connected off in the fourth. Tucker sent a changeup from Morgan over the low fence in right field to put Houston on top 2-1 in the fifth inning.
Oscar Mercado’s single in the sixth loaded the bases with no outs and chased McCullers. Bryan Abreu took over and struck out the next two batters before Clement doubled to center field to clear the bases and put the Indians up 4-2.
“I wanted to hunt out a slider and it seemed he had fallen in love with that pitch throughout the inning,” Clement said. “So I knew I was going to get one and I did my best not to miss it.”
The Astros tied it in the bottom of the inning with an RBI double from Altuve and a run-scoring single by Yuli Gurriel.
Indians: 3B José Ramírez sat out for a second straight game with elbow discomfort, but Francona said he should return to the lineup on Thursday. ... Chang was recalled from Triple-A Columbus to provide reinforcements in the infield with Ramírez out and Bobby Bradley dealing with discomfort in his lower back that made it difficult to play defense. Bradley was the team’s designated hitter on Wednesday night.
Astros: RHP Jose Urquidy (right shoulder discomfort) threw 35 pitches off flat ground on Wednesday. Baker said they’ll wait to see how he feels in the coming days before deciding on his next step. ... Baker said that LHP Brooks Raley (health and safety protocols) looked good in his first rehabilitation outing for Triple-A Sugar Land on Tuesday and that he could return soon.
THEY SAID IT
Hernandez on setting his career-high in homers: “It doesn’t surprise me. That has been my goal.”
Indians: Cal Quantrill (2-2, 4.05 ERA) will start for Cleveland in the opener of a four-game series against Tampa Bay on Thursday night. Luis Patiño (1-2, 4.87) is set to start for the Rays.
Astros: Houston is off Thursday before opening a three-game series against Texas on Friday night when Jake Odorizzi (3-5, 4.09) will oppose Rangers’ left-hander Kolby Allard (2-7, 4.06)
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