With the Cleveland Indians in search of an insurance run in the eighth inning Thursday, shortstop Francisco Lindor posed a threat and played his vital role of linchpin for the team.
He will look to remain dangerous Friday when the visiting Indians continue their four-game series against the Houston Astros.
In just his fifth game back following a right calf injury that sidelined him during spring training before a left ankle injury led to a setback, Lindor finished 1-for-4. With the Indians clinging to a one-run lead in the eighth, he singled, advanced to second base on a wild pitch and was standing on third when Jose Ramirez grounded out to end the threat.
Still, it felt all was right for the Indians, who held on for a 2-1 victory at Minute Maid Park.
After finishing second to Astros shortstop Carlos Correa in American League Rookie of the Year balloting in 2015, Lindor placed in the top 10 in AL Most Valuable Player voting during each of the past three seasons. A large measure of the Indians' identity is tied to Lindor, both on offense and defense.
"We're thrilled to have Frankie back," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Last year he scored 129 runs (to tie for the major league lead). He's still working his way into being Frankie, but we love having him back."
Right-hander Corey Kluber (2-2, 5.88 ERA) will start on Friday for the Indians. Kluber matched his season highs with seven innings and eight strikeouts in his most recent start, beating the Atlanta Braves 8-4 on Saturday while allowing four runs on five hits and two walks.
Kluber will make his 11th career appearance (10th start) against the Astros, against whom he is 6-3 with a 2.83 ERA. He made two starts against Houston in 2018, going 1-0 with a 1.35 ERA and 17 strikeouts over 13 1/3 innings.
Right-hander Collin McHugh (3-2, 4.78 ERA) starts opposite Kluber for the Astros. He surrendered a career-high 10 runs (nine earned) over 3 1/3 innings in his previous outing, an 11-10 loss to the Texas Rangers on Sunday.
Prior to that start, McHugh had allowed just five runs over 23 innings while recording 27 strikeouts during that four-start stretch. He is 1-0 with a 1.50 ERA over six appearances (two starts) against Cleveland. McHugh yielded one run on four hits and two walks with eight strikeouts over six innings in four relief appearances vs. the Indians last season.
Correa, who is 3-for-19 (.158) with one homer in his career against Kluber, has been in the middle of two unusual plays that worked against Houston during the Astros' current seven-game homestand. On Tuesday against the Minnesota Twins, he reflexively reached for an errant pitch and was ruled out on batter's interference with two runners on to end the seventh.
On Thursday, Correa hit into an unusual double play in the only at-bat the Astros managed with a runner in scoring position.
With runners on first and second and one out in the sixth inning, Correa appeared to foul a Trevor Bauer pitch off his foot. The ball rolled to third baseman Ramirez. He stepped on third for a forceout before throwing to first to retire Correa, who never vacated the batter's box. The umpires conferred and ruled Correa out, ending that threat.
"Nobody saw it," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "I don't really expect guys to see a ball off of a foot from behind the bases. It's pretty far. I was judging it off of Carlos' reaction and change of direction of the ball.
"It's not reviewable; we didn't have a challenge anyway. But they said that none of them saw it definitively hit his foot."
--Field Level Media
Lindor, Indians look for another win at Houston
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