CLEVELAND — The Indians got another top-shelf effort from a starting pitcher Friday night in the series opener against Houston. Unfortunately for them, they also got another bottom-feeding performance from their offense and defense.
Right-hander Carlos Carrasco pitched well but was pretty much forced to go it alone in a 5-1 loss to the fourth-place Astros in front of 18,743 fans at Progressive Field.
The Indians, whose rotation ranks among the major league leaders with a sub-3.00 ERA in August, committed two errors to boost their major league-leading total to 99. Cleveland committed 98 errors all of last year.
Offensively, the Indians managed just five hits — to Houston’s three — scoring their lone run on a home run from Zach Walters in the fifth inning.
“Obviously, we need to do better,” manager Terry Francona said of his team, which lost for just the fourth time in the last 11 games after entering the night six games out of first place in the Central Division standings and facing a 4½-game deficit in the American League wild-card race. “That’s not the way we certainly want to play the game. Losing’s one thing, but losing like that … we’ll do better.
“We’ve got about six weeks left. If we want to continue to be in this thing, we’re going to have to play a lot cleaner. We’re the type of team, we can’t play like that and expect to win. We need to play clean, because we pitched really good tonight.”
Carrasco (5-4, 3.14 ERA) continued his effective stretch since rejoining the rotation, allowing just a run on two hits, while striking out a season-high eight batters over six innings. In three starts since leaving the bullpen, Carrasco has gone 2-0 with a 0.50 ERA.
He entered the night on a 12-inning scoreless streak, extending it to 16 innings, before allowing a solo homer to Marwin Gonzalez to start the fifth.
“Even as he starts to tire, he executes pitches and follows the game plan,” Francona said of Carrasco, who hit 99 mph on the radar gun. “He’s really been a bright spot.”
“I feel really good,” said Carrasco, who allowed just a hit, while striking out six over the first four innings. “Every pitch I threw for some reason, and I just feel really good. The only thing that I had in my mind was to give the team an opportunity to win.”
Cleveland didn’t have many scoring chances, blowing a golden one with the game tied at 1 in the eighth inning.
Pinch hitter Mike Aviles led off with a single and advanced to second when the Astros failed to make a play on pinch hitter Tyler Holt’s sacrifice bunt.
The two baserunners were erased without a ball being put in play when Roberto Perez failed to get a bunt down and Aviles was caught in a rundown. Holt was caught trying to steal third base before Perez struck out to end the inning.
“He got too aggressive and then he got in no man’s land,” Francona said of Aviles.
Everything fell apart for the Indians in the ninth inning.
Closer Cody Allen issued a one-out walk before Cleveland’s shoddy fielding took over. First baseman Carlos Santana’s throwing error on a double-play grounder left runners at first and third.
An errant throw from Perez on a stolen-base attempt allowed the go-ahead run to score and Jon Singleton’s two-out, three-run homer off Allen put the game away.
It was the first matchup of the season between the AL rivals, with the Indians entering the night on a six-game winning streak against the Astros.
It was Cleveland’s first loss when allowing at least five runs on three hits or fewer since a 6-4 defeat, Aug. 3, 1990, at Yankee Stadium.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Houston
WHERE: Progressive Field
PITCHERS: Salazar (4-6, 4.79 ERA) vs. McHugh (6-9, 3.00)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM