CLEVELAND -- A controversial call in the third inning, followed by some clutch hits for Cleveland, helped the Indians pull off a 10-7 victory over the Astros on Thursday afternoon. With the win, the Tribe salvaged a split of the four-game series at Progressive Field.
The victory helped the American League Central-leading Indians increase their lead to six games over the second-place Tigers. Houston, meanwhile, slipped to 2 1/2 games back of the Orioles for the AL's second Wild Card spot.
"We know every game is important, and there's no letting down," said Cleveland's Mike Napoli. "Detroit has a good team. By no means are they out of this. I've seen leads shrink pretty quick. Our goal is to have the best record in the American League and try to have home-field advantage."
Left fielder Abraham Almonte contributed a two-run triple, and first baseman Carlos Santana launched his 30th home run in the fifth, but it was a call by home-plate umpire Jim Joyce in the third that helped sway the momentum for Cleveland. What looked like a foul ball by Lonnie Chisenhall was deemed a wild pitch, allowing the runs to score and paving the way for a four-run outburst in the inning.
"I didn't know what was going on," Indians starter Trevor Bauer said. "That was a big inning for us. I'm glad it turned out that way. I still don't really know what happened there, but I'm glad it worked out for us."
All four runs in the third were charged to rookie righty David Paulino, who lasted only three innings in his Major League debut for the Astros. Yulieski Gurriel (solo shot in the fourth) and Colby Rasmus (two-run blast in the sixth) each connected for a home run off Bauer, but the damage had been done.
Almonte ended the afternoon with a double, triple and outfield assist. Shortstop Francisco Lindor added two hits and three RBIs for Cleveland, while rookie Alex Bregman knocked in three of Houston's runs. Bregman doubled home a run in the first and later added an RBI triple in a two-run seventh.
"You're as good as your last game, you're as good as your last series," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We come in here and get a split. You feel really good about it, except how it happened. We win the first two and lose the back two. Psychologically you're going to be a mess about, it because you feel like there's an opportunity lost.
"We have a big series ahead of us with the Cubs. We have the Rangers following them and a nice homestand. We play complete baseball, we'll win these games."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Wild turn of events: While in a bases-loaded jam in the third, Paulino fired a 1-2 pitch that bounced in the dirt and ricocheted off Chisenhall's bat before skipping away. Catcher Jason Castro did not pursue the ball, but home-plate umpire Jim Joyce deemed it a wild pitch. While Castro tried to convince Joyce the ball was foul, both Francisco Lindor and Napoli sprinted home, giving Cleveland a 4-1 lead. Hinch was then ejected after arguing the call. The umpires consulted replay review to confirm that the play was not reviewable, and also to determine where to place Jose Ramirez, who tried to score from first base on the play. He was sent back to second due to when time was called. More >
"We did not have the ball hitting the bat," Joyce told a pool reporter. "Me originally, and then I went to each crew member and asked them the same thing. If any of them had it hitting the bat, I would have turned around and called a foul ball. My partners couldn't help me on it. Since I called timeout, I score two runs and put the other guy on [second]."
Paulino doesn't last: Paulino, in his Major League debut, became the eighth consecutive Astros starting pitcher to not make it past the fifth inning. The 6-foot-7 right-hander allowed four hits and four runs in three innings, throwing 70 pitches. More than half of those came in the third, when he allowed two walks, hit a batter and threw two wild pitches, including the controversial pitch that led to Hinch's ejection. More >
"The third inning just took forever," Hinch said. "He didn't end at-bats, and he couldn't get out of the inning without 40-plus pitches. It was a big ask for us to expect him to go pretty deep in the game. I thought as he started the game, it was pretty interesting the angle he has, the breaking ball he has, but the third inning took a long time, took a lot of pitches out of him and ended his day."
Bauer's outing: After Bauer yielded a towering, two-run homer to Rasmus in the sixth, Indians manager Terry Francona pulled the plug on the starter's day at 79 pitches. In five-plus innings, the righty was charged with five runs on seven hits, including two homers. He struck out two and walked two. It was hardly a strong outing, but Cleveland's offensive outpouring, and the gift runs in the third, created ample cushion for Bauer to collect his 11th win.
Power strokes: The Astros finally had some success offensively against Bauer, getting homers from Gurriel and Rasmus. Houston's offense has certainly done its part, scoring at least four runs in eight consecutive games. The Astros have scored 45 runs in their past eight games (5.6 per game) with 12 homers in their last seven games, including five multihomer games.
"Nobody ever wants to have a call go against them. I will say, that guy behind the plate [Joyce] gives you as good an effort and is as conscientious as any umpire I've ever been around. And there have been calls that have gone against us with him. It's just hard to get mad at him, because he gives you everything you ever ask for." -- Francona
"It's awesome. I'm happy for him. I remember saying in Spring Training that we were both going to hit 30. I think it's a pretty cool and a special moment for me and him. He's done a lot to help us this year." -- Napoli, who hugged Santana in the dugout after his home run.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
With his home run, Santana joined Napoli in the 30 Home Run Club this season. This marks the first time since 2002 that Cleveland has had two players launch at least 30 homers in the same season. In that campaign, Jim Thome belted 52 and Ellis Burks had 32 for the Tribe.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
With one out in the second, Houston's A.J. Reed lined a pitch from Bauer down the left-field line, where it two-hopped the wall. Almonte quickly gloved the ball in left, spun and fired a strike to second baseman Jason Kipnis, who applied a tag on Reed as he slid in trying for a double. Second-base umpire James Hoye called Reed safe on the bang-bang play, but Cleveland challenged the ruling. After a 48-second replay review, the safe call was overturned. That gave Almonte his fourth outfield assist of the season.
The umpires initiated a crew-chief review in the fourth inning, when Almonte sent a fly ball off the top of the 19-foot wall in left. Almonte was initially given a home run, but was sent back to second after replays showed the ball did not clear the yellow line atop the wall. After his leadoff double, Almonte later scored on a two-run infield hit by Lindor.
WHAT'S NEXT Astros: Rookie right-hander Joe Musgrove will make his seventh career start when the Astros open a three-game series against the Cubs at 7:10 p.m. CT Friday at Minute Maid Park. Musgrove is 1-0 with a 0.54 ERA in 16 2/3 innings this year at home with 21 strikeouts.
Indians: The Indians are scheduled to head to Minneapolis, where they will begin a three-game weekend series with an 8:10 p.m. ET tilt on Friday at Target Field. Slated to start for the Tribe is righty Danny Salazar (11-6, 3.78 ERA), who has posted a 2.45 ERA with 21 strikeouts and four walks in his past 11 innings (two starts).