Astros hope McCullers can deliver series win vs. Indians

The first two games of the first series matchup between the Cleveland Indians and the Houston Astros showed why the teams are among the best in baseball.

After wins by the Astros on Friday and the Indians on Saturday, not much else has been decided.

After two close games, the Indians and Astros play the rubber game of the three-game set Sunday night.

Cleveland sends right-hander Carlos Carrasco (5-2, 3.66 ERA) to the mound to oppose Houston’s Lance McCullers Jr. (5-2, 3.63).

Cleveland’s Mike Clevinger, who took the loss on Friday, said there’s not much to separate the teams.

“There’s not much room for error,” Clevinger said of the defending World Series champion Astros. “They’re pretty loaded, top to bottom. But we’re right there with them. There’s not anything they have that we don’t have. They’re not that special.”

Cleveland rebounded from Friday’s 4-1 loss by beating Houston 5-4 on Saturday afternoon. The Indians scored three times in the first inning against Dallas Keuchel and never looked back.

The win allowed the Indians, who lead the American League Central, to pull back to even for the season at 22-22 and granted right-hander Corey Kluber (7-2) his AL-leading seventh win of the year. Kluber is the first AL starter, and the second in MLB after Washington’s Max Scherzer, to reach the seven-win mark.

Kluber, who allowed two runs, has now opened the season with 10 straight quality starts. He has not allowed more than three earned runs in his last 22 starts.

Cleveland used three doubles and a home run to by Michael Brantley to grab the early lead. It was the first time in Keuchel’s career that the pitcher, who had allowed just one run in his past 15 innings, has surrendered four extra-base hits in any inning.

The Astros used the long ball to chip away in the late innings, first with Carlos Correa’s two-run homer in the sixth off Kluber. Alex Bregman added a solo shot in the eighth, and Marwin Gonzalez brought Houston within one run with a one-out solo homer in the ninth off Cleveland closer Cody Allen. But Allen retired the last two batters to complete a five-out save.

The Astros were forced to shuffle their outfield in the series against the Indians after Jake Marisnick was optioned to Triple-A Fresno, and Josh Reddick suffered an infection in his left leg that kept him off the field in the past two games.

Reddick isn’t sure how he got the infection, saying a spider bite was a possibility. He pinch-hit in the ninth inning Saturday and flied out to center field, and he is hopeful to return to the lineup Sunday.

“It kind of hurts to walk around and make it move,” Reddick told MLB.com. “I probably could play through it. The thing right now is keeping it safe and (preventing) a further infection and causing something that will get out of hand. I think we’re going to take a day or two here and take the time to let the meds kick in, let the antibiotics do their work, and see where we’re at.”

Meanwhile, the Indians made some moves to clear up their next turn through the rotation, with Josh Tomlin moving to the bullpen and right-hander Adam Plutko set to be recalled from Triple-A Columbus in time to start against the Chicago Cubs on Wednesday at Wrigley Field.

Clevinger, who threw 106 pitches in a losing effort against the Astros on Friday, will get an extra day of rest and start Thursday when the Tribe opens a homestand with the Astros.

“We wanted to get through Clev’s start last night,” Francona said Saturday. “We’ll give him an extra day.”

Carrasco, coming off a loss to the Detroit Tigers on Monday, is 3-1 with a 2.67 ERA in his career against the Astros. McCullers, coming off a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels, will be facing the Tribe for just the second time.