McKenzie, Guardians blank Astros
CLEVELAND — Triston McKenzie held Houston to two hits and struck out eight in eight innings, Luke Maile homered for the first time in three years and the Cleveland Guardians defeated the Houston Astros 1-0 on Sunday.
McKenzie (8-8) retired 15 straight hitters before pinch-hitter Kyle Tucker walked with one out in the eighth. Pinch-hitter Jose Altuve then bounced into an inning-ending double play, and McKenzie let out a yell and pounded his right hand into his glove as he headed to dugout behind a loud ovation from 22,688 fans.
McKenzie admitted the moment got him pumped up.
“It was less the guy and more the spot the team was in,” he said. “Being up 1-0 in the eighth, that’s a huge out, especially a double play to end the inning.”
Altuve, who homered twice off McKenzie last season, wasn’t in the starting lineup but bench coach Joe Espada found an opportune moment to use his star second baseman. Altuve was 3 for 6 off McKenzie before Sunday.
McKenzie walked one and threw 91 pitches. He struck out Alex Bregman to begin the second, but Trey Mancini and Chas McCormick followed with one-out singles to put runners at first and second. McKenzie struck out Mauricio Dubon and Jake Meyers to end the inning.
“He had no margin for error today, and fortunately he didn’t make any,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said.
The 25-year-old right-hander was 3-1 with a 1.34 ERA in July, but had allowed a three-run homer in each of his last two starts — both losses.
Maile’s fifth-inning home run off Christian Javier landed on the home run porch in left field for his first homer since May 20, 2019.
“I wasn’t really looking for anything in particular,” Maile said. “He got me 0-2 pretty quick and then there was a fastball up that I checked my swing on. I thought if anything he might have sped me up a little bit, so I had to focus on getting started just a little earlier.”
Emmanuel Clase struck out two of the three hitters he faced in the ninth for his 24th save in 26 opportunities.
The win gave Cleveland a split of the four-game series against the AL West leaders. Houston won the first two games of the series by a combined score of 15-3 and is an AL-best 36-23 on the road.
Javier (6-8) is 0-5 over his last six starts. The right-hander gave up six hits, struck out four and didn’t walk a batter over six innings.
Espada spoke on the phone Sunday morning with Astros manager Dusty Baker, who was out for the series after testing positive for COVID-19 on Friday.
“He’s in good spirits,” Espada said. “He’s feeling a lot better. Hopefully he gets to travel back to Houston sometime this week.”
A NEEDED BREAK
The Astros have their first day off Monday since the All-Star break after a stretch of 19 consecutive games.
“We have to know how to go about it, which is thinking long term and trying to get these guys rest and recover,” Espada said.
The Guardians aren’t far behind — 18 games in 17 days.
“The guys need it,” Francona said of Cleveland’s day off Monday. “It’ll be really good for them.”
Astros: Altuve and 1B Yuli Gurriel were out of the starting lineup. Houston is off Monday. Mancini started at first while Diaz played second.
Guardians: OF Steven Kwan returned after not playing Saturday and being pulled from Friday’s game after fouling a ball off his leg. Kwan was 0 for 2 on Friday, ending his 18-game hitting streak. The rookie singled in the third and fifth Sunday.
Astros: Houston opens a three-game home series against Texas on Tuesday night. RHP Jose Urquidy (10-4, 3.82) is the scheduled starter.
Guardians: RHP Shane Bieber (6-6, 3.39 ERA) is scheduled to start in the opener of a three-game series in Detroit on Tuesday.