CLEVELAND (AP) – Terry Francona knew the matchup called for a right-handed batter. The Indians manager sent lefty David Murphy to the plate anyway.
“Sometimes,” Francona said, “You just gotta stay out of the way.”
And sometimes, good things happen.
Murphy came through with a two-run double with one out in the eighth inning to send Trevor Bauer and Cleveland to a 4-2 win over the Houston Astros on Wednesday night.
Murphy, who came in 3 for 9 vs. left-handers this season, snapped a 2-2 tie by pulling a pitch from lefty Joe Thatcher (1-3) over right fielder Preston Tucker’s head, scoring rookie Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley.
Francona could have pinch-hit right-handed Ryan Raburn for Murphy, but he figured Astros manager A.J. Hinch would counter with right-hander Pat Neshek, so he stuck with Murphy.
“Murph is a good hitter, and fortunately he got a good pitch and he drove it and that’s what good hitters do,” Francona said. “It made everybody happy.”
The Indians, who have been blessed with great pitching but not enough offense so far this season, have won two straight at home for just the second time.
Murphy has been one of Cleveland’s steadiest hitters, batting .372 (45 of 121) in his last 50 games. When he came to the plate in the eighth, he wanted to deliver.
“In a situation like that, blood’s pumping a little bit,” he said. “You got a chance to do something big in the game. At the end of the day, just be a baseball player. Right, left, it doesn’t matter.”
Thatcher realized his pitch to Murphy wasn’t where he wanted it.
“That’s what happens when you don’t make pitches,” Thatcher said. “Murphy put a good swing on the ball. It happens.”
Bauer (8-5) allowed Evan Gattis’ two-run homer in the first but settled down nicely, allowing six hits and zero walks in eight innings. The right-hander retired 13 of the final 14 batters he faced.
Cody Allen worked the ninth for his 17th save.
With the score tied 2-2, Lindor doubled with one out in the seventh, barely beating left fielder Colby Rasmus’ throw. Brantley walked and Murphy, a Houston native batting .368 in his last 49 games, came through with his clutch double.
Bauer had nine strikeouts, giving him 102 this season. According to information provided by the Indians, they are the first team in history to have four pitchers reach 100 strikeouts before the All-Star break. Corey Kluber (148) leads the AL and Carlos Carrasco (115) and Danny Salazar (108) have also topped the century mark.
“The stuff we roll out there every day is ridiculous,” Bauer said. “When we get on a roll, it’s tough to hit anybody in our rotation.”
Houston starter Dan Straily gave up two runs and three hits in six innings.
Bauer, who held Houston without a hit for six innings in his season debut, came in with a 0.00 ERA in two career appearances against the Astros.
Houston changed that in a hurry as Gattis hit his 15th homer. Jose Altuve singled leading off, moved up on a wild pitch and stole third. With two outs, Gattis crushed an eye-high fastball from Bauer, driving it over the wall in left and onto the pedestrian plaza.
“I threw a fastball up and it was two feet out of the strike zone,” Bauer said. “So what are you going to do? It’s great. I love baseball for that reason, because stuff like that happens.”
The Indians improved to 17-24 at Progressive Field, which is the AL’s second-worst home mark.
“It’s hard to imagine a team go very far and not play well at home,” Murphy said. “We need to take advantage of playing in front of our home crowd and hopefully we’ll get on a roll here.”
Indians: OF Nick Swisher (knee inflammation) went through a brisk workout in the outfield, running down some fly balls and even sliding for a few catches. Francona said Swisher, who had surgery on both knees last fall, is expected to do more on Friday when the team will have him take breaks to simulate sitting between innings to see how his knee responds.
Astros: LHP Brett Oberholtzer will be recalled from Triple-A Fresno to start the last game between the teams this season. He lasted just 1 1-3 innings in his previous start before he was ejected for throwing inside on Yankees slugger Alex Rodriguez. Oberholtzer was optioned to the minors following the June 27 game.
Indians: RHP Cody Anderson has been impressive in his first three starts, pitching at least 7 2-3 innings in each outing. He suffered his first loss last weekend in Pittsburgh despite allowing just six hits in eight innings.
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