CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians’ six-game winning streak ended on a night when they willingly used eight pitchers.
Alex Bregman hit a two-run homer and scored twice in the first three innings as the Houston Astros cruised to a 6-2 victory Monday.
The Indians’ lead in the American League Central was cut to 4 1/2 games over Detroit as manager Terry Francona opted to utilize his bullpen, rather than having Josh Tomlin take his regular turn in the rotation.
“If you ask me about every pitcher, we’ll be here all night,” Francona deadpanned. “We went out and kind of pieced it together, and I thought the guys did a pretty good job. But we’ll talk it over and see which way we’ll go the next time around.”
Right-hander Mike Clevinger (2-2) started and allowed one run in 1 2/3 innings, while Jeff Manship entered next and allowed Bregman’s blast with no outs in the third to give Houston a 3-0 lead.
Perci Garner, Joe Colon, Dan Otero, Bryan Shaw, and Cody Anderson followed before Tomlin tossed a scoreless ninth.
“I thought we put it together pretty well, especially with guys coming in earlier than they’re used to,” said Clevinger, whose previous five appearances were in relief. “I was just trying to stay in the same mindset of being aggressive and attacking.”
Mike Napoli hit a two-run homer and Francisco Lindor went 2 for 3 for Cleveland, which had its seven-game winning streak at Progressive Field snapped.
Napoli’s shot was his 30th of the season, marking the first time an Indian reached the mark since Grady Sizemore in 2008. It also broke a season-long 21-game homerless drought for the veteran slugger.
“We’ve all seen that Nap can hit them in bunches, so hopefully we’re about to enter another stretch like that,” Francona said.
Astros right-hander Mike Fiers (10-6) gave up two runs in five innings. Cleveland failed to get a hit off four relievers over the final four innings.
Second baseman Jason Kipnis committed two errors for the Indians, including one on a grounder in the eighth that led to two unearned runs off Shaw.
Tomlin finished the game with his first appearance out of the bullpen since Sept. 19, 2014. He went 0-5 with an 11.47 ERA in six August starts, prompting Francona and pitching coach Mickey Callaway to take their unusual approach against Houston.
“I was glad we got Josh in there, and I’m very glad that we got a clean inning out of it,” Francona said. “Tonight wasn’t like it would be in the beginning of the year, where you’re putting your bullpen at risk. We wouldn’t have done it if we didn’t have the expanded roster, and I thought the guys did a pretty good job.”
The scheduled Tuesday matchup between the last two AL Cy Young Award winners was scrapped because Astros LHP Dallas Keuchel was sent back to Houston with shoulder inflammation. Keuchel, the 2014 winner, will not face Indians RHP Corey Kluber, who earned the award in 2013.
Astros: RHP Brad Peacock will be recalled from Triple-A Fresno. He has made five relief appearances for Houston this year, posting a 3.86 ERA over seven innings.
Indians: Kluber logged his shortest start of the season against the Astros, allowing five runs in 2 2/3 innings in a 7-1 loss on May 9 in Cleveland.