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Indians' bullpen collapses (again)

By PAUL HOYNES • May 26, 2018 at 1:59 AM

CLEVELAND — 

It's hard to win games with a two-man bullpen because there will be times when that duo doesn't pitch well.

The Indians found that out Friday night as Houston scored four times in the eighth and seven more in the ninth on the way to a 11-2 victory at Progressive Field. The Astros batted around in each of the last two innings, sending 20 men to the plate.

Andrew Miller escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh when he got J.D. Davis to hit into an inning-ending double play to protect a 2-0 lead. But the relentless Astros chased the 6-7 lefty in the eighth and every reliever who followed him.

George Springer opened the eighth with a double. Miller walked Alex Bregman and Jose Altuve followed with a game-tying two-run double down the left-field line.

Closer Cody Allen relieved and retired Carlos Correa on a grounder to short as Altuve took third. Marwin Gonzalez squeezed home Altuve with the go-ahead run on a sacrifice bunt to the third-base side of the mound. Houston did not stop there.

Yuli Gurriel singled and Allen hit Evan Gattis with a pitch to load the bases. Then he walked Max Stassi to force home Houston's fourth run.

The Indians' bullpen has been so bad this month that manager Terry Francona seemingly only trusts Miller (1-3) and Allen when they have a lead late in the game. Saturday night he tried to get 2 2/3 innings out of them, but it was too big of an ask.

Miller and Allen allowed four runs on three hits and two walks in one inning. The Astros were just getting warmed up. They pounded out seven more runs in the ninth, three coming on a homer by Springer off Josh Tomlin, the sixth and last Tribe pitcher of the night.

"I'm definitely not sharp," said Miller, 0-3 with a 14.54 ERA and three blown saves in May. "I wish I had the answers. We're working hard at it. There are flashes of it, but it's been a pretty big grind lately."

The collapse ruined another strong start by Corey Kluber, who strives for consistency when he pitches and in his preparation to pitch. Games are won that way, so are Cy Young awards.

Saturday night was no different as Kluber made his 10th straight quality start and 23rd straight start in which he's allowed three or fewer runs. Kluber, in fact, didn't allow a run, but all he had to show for it was a no-decision.

In 6 1/3 innings, he struck out seven and allowed seven hits.

Kluber started the seventh by striking out Gonzalez. Gurriel sent a grounder down the third baseline that Jose Ramirez couldn't handle for an error. Gattis and Stassi followed with singles to load the bases.

Miller relieved and produced a double play, but that was last rabbit he pulled out of the hat.

"You're feeling pretty good. It's 2-0 and he gets you into the seventh," said Francona. "But when Josie doesn't make the second out of the inning, I thought, "OK, we'll get to Andrew.' He got out of that inning, but after that we didn't have an answer for everything.

"When you give up 11 in the last two innings, that's a tough way to win."

Kluber said he had confidence in the pen when Miller relieved him.

"You have to have confidence in your teammates," said Kluber. "If a starter is struggling, if a reliever is struggling, if a hitter is struggling, you still have confidence in them.

"I guess we all expect to get the job done each time out. That's not going to happen every time, but you still have that expectation about yourself and your teammates."

The Indians took a 1-0 lead against left-hander Dallas Keuchel on consecutive two-out doubles by Michael Brantley and Ramirez in the third. Brantley doubled to right to extend his MLB-leading hitting streak to 14 games. Ramirez delivered him with a double off the left field wall for his 35th RBI.

In the seventh, the Indians made it a 2-0 game. Jason Kipnis ran his way out of a double play with the bases loaded on a grounder to first to score Edwin Encarnacion. Singles by Encarnacion, Melky Cabrera and Yan Gomes loaded the bases with one out.

After Encarnacion scored, Keuchel walked Rajai Davis to reload the bases. The Indians, however, could do no further damage as Greg Allen struck out.

The Indians missed another chance to do damage in the second when Encarnacion singled to end a 0-for-13 skid and Cabrera doubled him to third. Keuchel retired the next three batters, Gomes and Kipnis going down on strikeouts, to deny the Tribe.

What it means

The Indians are 1-4 against Houston this year, but the gap between them and the defending World Series champion seems much wider. In the first two games of this series, Houston has outscored the Indians, 19-4.

The pitches

Kluber threw 103 pitches, 71 (69 percent) for strikes. Keuchel threw 103 pitches, 64 (62 percent) for strikes.

K's for Kluber

Kluber finished with seven strikeouts to give him 1,279 in his career. He ranks third in franchise history behind Bob Feller at 2,581 and Sam McDowell at 2,159.

When Kluber struck out Stassi in the fourth inning, he moved into sole possession of third place. He had been tied with Hall of Famers Early Wynn and Bob Lemon.

Thanks for coming

The Astros and Indians drew 29,431 to Progressive Field on Friday night. First pitch was a 7:11 p.m. with a temperature of 79 degrees.

Up next

Indians right-hander Carlos Carrasco (5-3, 3.65) has a rematch with the Astros and right-hander Lance McCullers (6-2, 3.20) at 7:15 p.m. tonight. Fox will televise the game, while WLKR 95.3-FM carry it on radio.

Carrasco and McCullers engaged in a pitching duel Sunday night at Minute Maid Park. Carrasco entered the seventh in a 0-0 deadlock, but allowed a two-run homer to Brian McCann in a 3-1 loss.

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