CLEVELAND — Corey Kluber pitched five-hit ball into the seventh inning and finally won for the first time since May 28, leading the Cleveland Indians to a 2-0 win over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.
Despite pitching well enough to win, Kluber (4-9) went 0-4 with two no-decisions in his previous six starts. But the defending AL Cy Young winner was on his game against the Astros, who managed just five singles and only got one runner to reach third base.
Zach McAllister finished the seventh, worked the eighth and Bryan Shaw finished up for his second save.
Michael Brantley homered in the sixth off Astros rookie Vince Velasquez (0-1) as the Indians snapped a three-game losing streak.
Velasquez was the pitcher of record for the first time in his sixth career start. He joins Hideo Nomo (1995), Marc Valdez (1995-96) and Chris Brock (1997) as the only pitchers in history to begin their careers with five starts without a decision.
The right-hander allowed only six hits in 6 1-3 innings and struck out five, but didn’t get any help from Houston’s offense.
Kluber knows how that feels. The steady and stoic right-hander came in receiving the second-lowest run support average (2.43 runs) in the majors, but did all he could to make the two runs he got on Tuesday stand up, throwing 6 2-3 quality innings.
He also received a major boost from his defense in the sixth while clinging to a 1-0 lead. First, center fielder Michael Bourn raced into the gap in right-center to make a lunging catch on Preston Tucker’s liner. Then, rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor made a spinning stop on a hard grounder before throwing out Carlos Correa at first.
With seven strikeouts, Kluber (148) moved past White Sox ace Chris Sale (147) for the major-league lead.
Looking for a spark, Indians manager Terry Francona shuffled his lineup, dropping struggling Carlos Santana into the No. 7 hole for the first time this season.
But it was David Murphy’s two-out RBI double that gave Cleveland a 1-0 lead in the first. Brantley singled and scored all the way from first when Murphy pulled a pitch from Velasquez over the right fielder Tucker’s head.
It was Kluber’s first lead at home since May 23, and Brantley doubled it in the sixth by drilling a first pitch from Velasquez into the right-field seats for fifth homer and first since May 14.
Astros: 3B Luis Valbuena (sprained left big toe) was not in the starting lineup for the second straight day, but manager A.J. Hinch said the team’s leading home-run hitter could face his former team before Houston leaves town. Valbuena, who spent three seasons with Cleveland, has 19 homers — 12 in his last 44 games.
Indians: RHP Josh Tomlin is scheduled to make a minor league rehab appearance later this week at Double-A Akron. The 30-year-old has been on the disabled list since undergoing shoulder surgery in April.
Astros: RHP Dan Straily makes his first start this season after being recalled from the minors last week. The 26-year-old, acquired in an offseason trade from the Cubs, allowed four runs in 4 2-3 innings in a relief appearance against Boston on Friday.
Indians: RHP Trevor Bauer pitched six hitless innings against Houston in his season debut on April 9. He’s 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA in two career appearances versus the Astros.