Bauer, Indians edge Houston, 3-1 to win three-game series
Starting pitching continues to carry the Tribe; Ramirez stays red hot
CLEVELAND—If the Indians want to play in October again, the road to another potential playoff spot begins and ends with only one thing: Pitching.
Starting pitching was the name of the game for the second day in a row Sunday, as the Tribe edged Houston, 3-1 to win the three-game series.
For the ninth time in 11 starts at Progressive Field, right-hander Trevor Bauer (5-7, 4.18 ERA) tossed a quality start, blanking the Astros through six strong innings.
“He kept them off the scoreboard and there were a lot of swing and miss,” manager Terry Francona said. “He really competes. He does such a good job of minimizing innings, getting double plays and throwing strikes. That helps a ton.”
Winless in the month of August, Bauer shined Sunday allowing no runs on three hits while striking out nine, notching his fifth victory.
“I had a pretty good feel for my fastball early so I used it,” he said. “That’s kind of my mindset going into every game, to find what I have a feel for and use it. I got away with a couple mistakes and the defense made some really nice plays. It was another step in the right direction and hopefully can keep it going.”
For whatever reason, the 23-year-old Bauer continues to dominate at home and regress on the road. Since last season, he owns a 2.87 ERA in 13 starts at Progressive Field and a 6.54 ERA in 11 outings away from the corner of Carnegie and Ontario.
“I do the same thing at home as I do on the road,” Bauer said. “I have the same approach, I don’t see that there’s any difference.”
There wouldn’t be much of a difference for Cleveland offensively in the series finale either, but three runs were more than enough for the Tribe starter.
After a sacrifice fly by Carlos Santana gave the team their first run of the contest in the third, Lonnie Chisenhall quickly made it 2-0 on a RBI single down the right field line off Astros starter Brett Oberholtzer (4-9, 4.01 ERA) an inning later in the fourth.
Hitting below .190 for most of the second half, Chisenhall recorded his second straight multi-hit game going 2-for-4 Sunday.
“It’s been peaks and valleys for sure, and the valleys of late,” the Indians third baseman said. “It’s a really long season and that kind of stuff happens. It’s about making adjustments and trusting the work you’re putting it.”
“He’ll get hot,” Francona said. “Guys for whatever reason get cold for sometimes longer than you want, but I think facing a lefty was good for him.”
It also was good for rookie shortstop Jose Ramirez, who continued his hot tear at the plate matching a career-high with three hits in the ballgame.
One day after giving Cleveland the win on a walk-off base-hit Saturday night, Ramirez went 3-for-4 and drove in a run on a RBI single off Oberholtzer in the seventh.
“He’s starting to play with some confidence,” Francona said. “That was the key we saw from him last year. He’s played such a good shortstop and he’s all over the place. When he’s hitting second, he can get a bunt down and he’s getting some hits now. He’s helped us.”
Since July 23, Ramirez is hitting .309 (25-for-81) with a homer and five RBI. The switch-hitter has also found a home in the two-hole in the Tribe lineup, hitting .432 in 37 at-bats.
“He’s coming up big,” right fielder Tyler Holt said. “Every time I go down in the video room he’s always watching his hits so his confidence is up there. He’s doing a great job.”
Holt too has done a great job on both sides of the ball, especially defensively where he took away not one, but two hits off the bat of Houston outfielder Marc Krauss on diving catches.
“Everyone sees the dives, but the jumps to get to the point where he could dive was impressive,” Francona said. “He played a really good right field today and has worked hard.”
Bauer left to a standing ovation from the 17,123 in attendance at Progressive Field in the seventh, but Houston went onto make the game interesting in the ninth against closer Cody Allen.
Squeezing a run home off Bryan Shaw in the eighth on an RBI double by first baseman Jon Singleton, the Astros loaded up the bases with two outs in the ninth. Allen never gave in, whiffing Dexter Fowler to end the ballgame.
Since August 9, the Indians rotation now owns a 1.70 ERA, having allowed just 15 earned runs over their last 79 innings covering 13 games.
“We haven’t been scoring a ton of runs and won a couple series in a row because of that,” Francona said. The hope is the pitching stays strong and we start scoring runs spreading a few games out. We have our work cut out for us, but if we pitch like that it gives us a chance.”
“It’s been unbelievable,” Bauer said. “Every day you run a new guy out there and have this feeling he’s going to post a really good start and we’re going to win the game. It’s nice to have that confidence as a team.”
Cleveland (66-63) improves to a season-high three games over .500 for just the third time this season. Notching their third consecutive series win, the Wahoos sit six games in back of first place Kansas City in the American League Central, scheduled to face division opponents in 25 of their final 33 regular season games.
“I think it was good to turn the page and get those two wins out of the way, and take a confident team to the road,” Holt said.
Up next for Indians: After an off day Monday, the Tribe travels to the Windy City to start a three-game series with the Chicago White Sox (59-71) beginning Tuesday night. Lefty T.J. House (2-3, 3.80 ERA) gets the start opposite of Pale Hose southpaw Jose Quintana (6-10, 3.25 ERA) at 8:10 p.m.
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