CLEVELAND – – Suddenly, José Altuve silenced the supporters and woke his teammates.
Altuve struck a grand slam to briefly silence the constant boos directed at him and his Houston teammates Yordan Álvarez and Michael Brantley, and the Astros ended a four-game losing streak with a 7-2 victory over the Indians Thursday evening.
Humiliated as soon as he stepped into the batter’s box to start the game, Altuve logged in for his fifth career slam – and second this season – in the fifth inning against Indians rookie JC Mejia (1-3) for give Houston a 5-2 lead.
Shooting was just what the Astros needed after being swept away at home by Baltimore and losing five of six after an 11-game winning streak.
“A great lift for us,” said manager Dusty Baker. “We haven’t scored but one or two points per game in this whole series with Baltimore, so that was huge. It gave us a bit of a break.
“Everyone was running on steam and that gave us a tremendous amount of energy. “
This is the Astros’ first trip to Progressive Field since 2019, and they’ve started hearing boos and other comments during pre-game presentations about their infamous sign-theft scandal.
Framber Valdez (5-1) overcame early control issues and allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings while helping the slim Houston relievers box to rest. The Astros made late-inning double plays in the fifth and sixth behind the left-hander.
“He didn’t look good at first,” Baker said. “He couldn’t find his bullet which broke. The double plays were huge.
Álvarez crushed his 14th homerun, a 446-foot shot through the center field pens, in the fourth for the Astros, who improved to a better MLB 30-16 against teams with winning records.
Brantley, who spent 10 seasons with Cleveland, added his fifth homerun in the seventh.
The Astros didn’t make it to Cleveland until 5 a.m. and their bats were slow for four innings before Altuve shaken things up.
Kyle Tucker led the fifth with a double and Mejia walked Myles Straw before the right-hander was handcuffed over a cavity that loaded the bases.
Altuve fell 1-2 behind in the count, and as the crowd prepared to roar for a possible strikeout, the Houston second baseman fired a Mejia slider over the left wall for his 18th circuit and its 11th since June 1st.
“I tried to throw that perfect shot and it just stayed in the zone,” said Mejia. “He didn’t break on the outside of the plate.”
Altuve said the Astros didn’t feel any extra pressure to kick off their offense after a few tough games.
“It’s baseball sometimes and as a team you have to know that you will end up getting some momentum and some points,” he said. “That’s what we did tonight.
The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the second but missed an opportunity to do more damage against Valdez, who is one of the AL’s best pitchers since returning from a broken left index finger suffered during spring training.
Harold Ramirez took a starting walk, went on to third on Eddie Rosario’s singles and scored on Valdez’s wild field. Two more walks loaded the goals, but Valdez escaped with one strikeout and one-second strength.
SS Astros Carlos Correa took his leave after the team arrived early in the morning. Baker intends to give the others some time over the next few days in an effort to regain his full strength by the time of the series finale on Sunday.
ANOTHER INDIAN INJURY
Eddie Rosario left in third with tight abdominal pressure and then underwent an MRI.
Rosario, who recently had a 14-game hitting streak, hit a second single on a ball that seemed to be deep enough that he could get a brace. He was visibly embarrassed by something when he moved up to second on rough terrain.
Manager Terry Francona has said the team want to be careful with Rosario.
“The last thing we want to do is let someone take a big hit and it’s more than a cramp,” he said.
Astros: RHP Josh James, who underwent hip surgery in October, started a pre-game reliever paddock session as he continues his long recovery. His next stop should be a rehab mission at Triple-A. “I thought I saw a ghost when I saw it in the dining room,” Baker joked after a pre-game meeting with James.
Indians: C Roberto Pérez (finger surgery) remains on track to be activated on Saturday. He got scared Wednesday night at Double-A Akron when he was shot in the right hand. “It was in the flesh of the hand,” Francona said. “He’s a little bruised over there.” Pérez will catch Triple-A Columbus on Friday. … Slugger Franmil Reyes (oblique strain) is also expected to be activated on Saturday after being sidelined since May 23.
Astros RHP Lance McCullers Jr. (5-1, 2.94 ERA) starts Friday’s game against LHP Sam Hentges (1-2, 7.32), one of Cleveland’s three starting rookies in the series.