We anticipated a pitching duel with Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer on the mound for their respective teams Thursday evening, and that’s what we got.
The unfortunate, although no longer unexpected, part was the Houston Astros had to deal with more questionable judgments by a home-plate umpire in their 2-1 loss to the Cleveland Indians.
Cole, who went seven innings for the second time this season, allowed just three hits and struck out 10 in one of his best starts of 2019. Bauer countered with eight innings of four-hit, one-run ball, though he walked six and only struck out three batters in his longest start of the season.
Not that Bauer needed the help — he came into tonight with a 1.45 ERA in three starts at Minute Maid Park and hadn’t lost in nine career outings against the Astros — but it surely didn’t hurt him or the Indians that he got a couple of favors from the umpires as well.
The most glaring and questionable call came in the bottom of the sixth inning. A leadoff walk to Jose Altuve and bloop single for Michael Brantley gave the Astros two men on with one out and brought the red-hot Carlos Correa to the plate.
Correa worked the count to 2-2 on Bauer and appeared to foul a pitch off his foot that ended up in fair territory. The umpires ruled the ball never contacted Correa and the Indians easily turned an inning-ending double play as the Astros shortstop bounded around home plate.
Looks like Astros just got screwed there. Correa hit a ball off his foot and wound up being a double play. Am I wrong?— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) April 26, 2019
Carlos Correa appeared to foul a ball off his foot that trickled into fair territory. The Indians turned a double play when Correa didn't run. Umpires ruled the ball didn't touch Correa.— Chandler Rome (@Chandler_Rome) April 26, 2019
A.J. Hinch had a long discussion, left displeased, but was not ejected
On Correa foul ball, Hinch said none of the umps saw it. It's not reviewable and Astros were out of challenges anyway. Hinch was just going on Correa's reaction, but replay showed it did hit his foot.— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) April 26, 2019
Confusion struck again an inning later when Robinson Chirinos foul-tipped a two-strike pitch that appeared to hit the dirt before being caught by catcher Roberto Perez.
Again, credit to Bauer, who stymied a surging Astros’ offense — as he seemingly always does.
In their last 17 games overall, the Astros averaging 6.2 runs and batting .300 with 35 homers.— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) April 26, 2019
But it’d be great for one of those plays to be reviewable. Or for the umpire to at least check the ball, as broadcaster Geoff Blum insisted should be done, for a scuff mark that could indicate whether it contacted the dirt after Chirinos’ swing. The Astros arguably lost three outs (an entire inning’s worth!) due to questionable calls, which just can’t keep happening, especially against competition of Bauer’s quality.
The Astros were on the verge of mounting another threat in the eighth after a one-out walk to Altuve brought up Bauer’s nemesis Alex Bregman. Altuve attempted to steal second, but he was thrown out rather easily and Bregman flied out to end the inning. Brad Hand came on in the ninth and recorded his seventh save for the Indians.
Regardless, it was nice to see Cole rebound from his last start, when he surrendered a career-high nine runs against the Rangers in Arlington. Cole, who threw 103 pitches, culminated his night in impressive fashion.
Gerrit Cole just finished off the 7th inning by blowing a 98.7 mph fastball past Roberto Perez.— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) April 26, 2019
That's the fastest pitch a SP has thrown in the 7th inning or later this season.
Cole has thrown at least 99 pitches, but never more than 105, in every start this season. Cole entered the game with a 17.5% swinging strike rate, fourth in MLB, and he consistently pounded up in the zone all night.
Look at where Gerrit Cole's 22 swinging strikes have been located tonight.— Andrew Simon (@AndrewSimonMLB) April 26, 2019
That's because 17 of those whiffs have come on 4-seam fastballs -- a season high for any pitcher. pic.twitter.com/TjEwL8ogX0
Both teams were scoreless until two-out homers in the third.
Leonys Martin logged Cleveland’s first hit of the night by clubbing a two-out, solo home run, his fourth longball of the year, to left in the third inning.
Bauer got two quick outs in the bottom half of the inning before George Springer unloaded his eighth homer over the tracks in left to knot things up, 1-1. Springer has a team-leading 21 RBI.
Hang it, then bang it.— Houston Astros (@astros) April 26, 2019
We're all square! #TakeItBack pic.twitter.com/sZMs0v7Zc7
Altuve nearly went back-to-back on a deep flyball to rightfield that was caught on the warning track by Carlos Gonzalez.
The Indians regained the lead in the fifth on Jake Bauers’ third home run of the season, which landed in the first row of the Crawford Boxes. Two of the three hits Cole allowed were solo homers, which marked the first time he has allowed multiple homers in a game this season. The damage provided the Indians just enough offense to hand Cole (1-4, 4.71) a tough-luck loss. Bauer improved to 3-1 and has only given up 9 runs in 40 2/3 innings, good for a 1.99 ERA through six starts.
The Astros had a baserunner in each of first five innings and Bauer didn’t record his first strikeout until Tony Kemp whiffed in the fifth.
Correa recorded the game’s first hit — which extended his hitting streak to seven games — to lead off the bottom of the second inning, but he was quickly erased on a groundball double play by Yuli Gurriel.
Brantley extended his hitting streak to 11 games with a one-out single in the fourth but was thrown out trying to advance on a pitch that initially got away from Perez.
Will Harris and Roberto Osuna both tossed scoreless innings in relief for the Astros.
Box score and videos here.
The Astros host the Indians again tomorrow night at 7:10 p.m. (CT), with Collin McHugh (3-2, 4.78) squaring off against two-time American League Cy Young winner Corey Kluber (2-2, 5.88). Kluber has allowed four or more runs in three of his five starts this season. McHugh, meanwhile, has allowed more than two runs only once in five starts. He will try to redeem himself after getting shelled by the Rangers for 10 runs in his last outing.