CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros will conclude their four-game series Thursday afternoon at Progressive Field. Houston won the first two games, but Cleveland won the third game Wednesday.
The end of Wednesday's game was a closer's nightmare. With the Indians clinging to a 6-5 lead, Houston had the tying run at first base, two outs in the top of the ninth inning, and Jose Altuve at the plate. But Indians closer Cody Allen rose to the challenge, striking out the league's leading hitter to end the game.
"We were hoping Altuve wouldn't come to the plate, but it figures," said Indians manager Terry Francona.
Said Allen: "Those are situations, you don't like them, but in hindsight you enjoy them. It's competition at its best. Game on the line. He's one of the best hitters in the game."
The Indians are 7-2 on the 10-game homestand that concludes Thursday. The pitching matchup will be Trevor Bauer (10-6, 3.70) for the Indians vs. Astros right-hander David Paulino, who will be making his major league debut.
Bauer comes into the game on a roll. In his last six starts Bauer is 3-1 with a 2.61 ERA while holding opposing batters to a .215 batting average. This will be Bauer's second start against Houston. In his first start, on May 10, he was outstanding. In a 4-0 victory Bauer pitched seven scoreless innings on three hits with seven strikeouts.
Houston is one of Bauer's preferred opponents. In four career starts against the Astros he is 4-0 with a 0.67 ERA and 36 strikeouts in 27 innings.
Paulino is ranked as the No.4 prospect in the Houston organization and No.76 in all of baseball by MLB.com. He pitched at three levels this year, Class-A Gulf Coast Astros, Double-A Corpus Christi and Triple-A Fresno. In a combined 20 appearances, 15 starts he was 5-4 with a 2.00 ERA. In 90 innings he gave up 72 hits with 106 strikeouts and 19 walks.
The Astros will play the game without shortstop Carlos Correa, who also missed Wednesday's game. Correa has an inflamed left shoulder and was sent back to Houston for further tests.
Manger A.J. Hinch said he expects Correa to be able to play Friday, when the Astros open a homestand against the Cubs.
"Carlos is a little beat up," Hinch said. "We sent him to see our doctors. We felt it was the right decision."
Alex Bregman, who was drafted as a shortstop last year, but has played mostly third base since joining the Astros, started at short on Wednesday, and is expected to be there again on Thursday.
Correa struck out three times in Tuesday's game, but has a 12-game hitting streak. Correa is hitting .274 with 90 RBIs, 87 of them as a shortstop, which broke the Astros record for most RBIs by a shortstop, which was 86, by Miguel Tejada in 2009.
The series between the Indians and Astros has been very competitive, and with good reason. Houston is battling for the second wildcard spot in the American League and the Indians, who lead the AL Central by 5 1/2 games, are trying to hold off second place Detroit to win the division for the first time since 2007.
"Teams are chasing us. We have to play good baseball," Allen said. "We want to win on a daily basis, because as long as we continue to win, they can't catch us."