CLEVELAND — The Indians didn’t do a whole lot offensively Saturday at Progressive Field, but with top-shelf pitching the entire night, it didn’t matter.
Cleveland scored twice in the sixth inning and let its pitching do the rest in a 2-0 victory over the Rangers in front of 28,285 fans.
Left-hander T.J. House rejoined the rotation from Triple-A Columbus and offered up an impressive five-inning outing, allowing just three hits, while striking out seven and walking two.
House didn’t get the win, but he lowered his ERA to 4.09 over the first 11 games (10 starts) of his big league career. He has worked at least five innings, while allowing three or fewer runs in seven of his 10 starts.
“As long as he’s keeping it on the ground and getting an occasional strikeout, he gives himself a chance,” manager Terry Francona said.
House permitted just two hits through the first five innings, but after allowing the first two batters to reach base in the sixth, Francona came to get him.
“I wouldn’t say necessarily surprised (he took me out),” House said.
“Obviously, I wanted to stay out there and get the job done. It’s his job to decide who to use in what situation. At that time, he felt like it was the best decision to put (Scott) Atchison in there, and he got the job done.”
The 38-year-old Atchison was tested, first having to face the dangerous Adrian Beltre, who grounded out to advance the runners to second and third with the game still scoreless.
The following batter, J.P. Arencibia, grounded to third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall, who threw home to catch Elvis Andrus in a rundown. Atchison wound up with the ball at home plate, exerting plenty of effort to chase down Andrus on the third-base line and make the tag.
After a visit to the mound from pitching coach Mickey Callaway to let Atchison catch his breath, the veteran right-hander struck out Leonys Martin to end the threat.
“I’m worried that Atch is going to show up (today) and not be able to walk,” Francona joked. “I don’t think Atch knew he was capable of moving like that. That’s not a good baseball play. That was desperation.”
Though it looked funny on the field, it was a key play from Atchison, who has been a key late-inning reliever for Cleveland all season.
“That was awesome,” closer Cody Allen said. “(Atchison) was moving. He was not going to let (Andrus) get there. That was a huge play for us. That was a big spot in the game. I feel like we were able to piece together a real good game.
“We see (Atchison) out there moving around. Don’t let him fool you. That guy’s an athlete.”
Bryan Shaw shook off a poor outing his last time out to retire the side in order in the eighth inning, handing a two-run lead to Allen in the ninth.
Allen, who hadn’t been in a save situation for an extended spell, walked the first batter he faced, then allowed a single to Martin that put him in a sticky situation.
“It started out interesting. He was obviously having a tough time commanding,” Francona said of Allen. “The he really beared down. He found a way to reel it back in and execute pitches.”
Allen flicked the switch and retired the next three in order — striking out two, including the final batter — to earn his 14th save.
“I feel like I kind of lost it there for a little bit,” Allen said. “I just tried to grind through it. Luckily, I was able to throw enough pitches to get out of it.”
Cleveland managed just two hits — both from Michael Brantley — through the first five innings off Texas starter Miles Mikolas, who entered the night with a 1-3 record and 8.54 ERA in five starts.
“Their guy came in with a high ERA, but he was commanding,” Francona said. “It really made it tough on us.”
Jason Kipnis started the sixth with a single, but a sacrifice bunt from Mike Aviles and a ground out from Brantley put the rally in jeopardy. An intentional walk to Carlos Santana left runners at first and second for Lonnie Chisenhall, who brought in Cleveland’s first run with a single to right-center. Nick Swisher followed with another base hit to score Santana.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Texas
WHERE: Progressive Field
PITCHERS: Bauer (4-6, 4.25 ERA) vs. Darvish (10-6, 2.90)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM