Indians ace Corey Kluber looked every bit Monday night like the American League Cy Young Award winner he was a year ago. Astros left-hander Dallas Keuchel wasn't about to play a supporting role.
Kluber carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning before the Astros rallied behindJose Altuve and George Springer to reward Keuchel for seven scoreless innings in a 2-0 Opening Day win over the Indians at Minute Maid Park.
"Both pitchers were good," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "Different styles -- left, right -- but, man, [Kluber] was good. On a lot of nights, we're sitting here saying he had a great game, it was a win. But, their guy was good, too. In a different way, but there wasn't a whole lot of offense going on."
Houston's revamped bullpen, which has been its weakness in the past few seasons, flexed its muscle when Tony Sipp threw a perfect eighth, including two strikeouts, and Luke Gregerson worked a perfect ninth for his first save with the Astros.
"That was two pretty good pitchers going at it, toe-to-toe pretty much every inning," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "There wasn't a lot of action on the bases. There's a reason these two both started Opening Day. They pitched deep into the game in Game 1 against some pretty good hitters. It was a well-pitched game."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Cy Young encore: Kluber showed why he earned the AL Cy Young Award last year. The right-hander cruised through his first 18 hitters without relinquishing a hit and ended the evening with seven strikeouts against two walks in 7 1/3 innings. He was charged with two runs on three hits when it was all said and done. It was an impressive effort, which came one day after Cleveland locked Kluber up with a five-year, $38.5 million extension.
"It was exciting," Indians catcher Yan Gomes said. "We were criss-crossing guys like last year. It was exciting to see. It's just one of those things where it's the game to watch. Everybody's waiting to see how he's going to bounce back from last year. It's a good thing to see that, definitely."
Kluber said he felt strong out of the gates.
"I started off well," he said. "I felt like maybe a little bit, as it got later in the game, I lost my fastball command just a little bit and didn't quite locate some two-strike pitches like I would've wanted to. But, in general, overall, I felt pretty good." More >
Altuve's first ignites rally: If anyone was going to break up Kluber's no-hit bid, you knew it would be Altuve, who led the Majors last year with a .341 batting average and 225 hits. Altuve blooped a single to center with two outs in the sixth for the Astros' first hit, and promptly stole second base (he led the AL in steals in last year, too). That set the stage for an RBI single by Springer to give the Astros a 1-0 lead.
"I wanted to put the ball in play," Altuve said. "As soon as I got on first base, I knew Springer was hitting behind me, and if I got to second base, he can drive me in. That's what happened, and we took the lead, and that's pretty important in the inning." More >
Keuchel shows off Gold Glove: After giving up a pair of singles to Carlos Santana and Gomes to start the seventh, Keuchel came back to strike outBrandon Moss swinging before displaying the slick fielding that won him a Gold Glove Award last year. He scurried to a swinging bunt by Ryan Raburnnear the third-base line and threw him out at first, and with runners at second and third, threw out Lonnie Chisenhall on a tapper in front of the mound to polish off seven scoreless innings. More >
Valbuena stymies rally: One of the key plays in the seventh inning came on Gomes' infield hit, when third baseman Luis Valbuena made a diving stop to keep Santana from advancing to third, which would have changed the complexion of the inning.
"You don't know what's going to happen after that, but it's probably a game saver," Francona said. "That was a heck of a play. At worst, we're second and third -- maybe better."
Said Keuchel: "I think Valbuena had the play of the day, for sure."
QUOTABLE "It's fun to kind of have that little battle, but I don't affect what he does at all, and he doesn't affect what I do. It's more so focusing on the situation in the game and things like that. Obviously, when it's a close ballgame and low scoring, there's a premium on every pitch. I think that's why it's a little more fun that way." --Kluber, on the duel with Keuchel
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS • Last season, Kluber had 18 starts consisting of at least seven strikeouts and no more than two walks issued in at least seven innings. That was the most outings of that kind in a single season by an Indians starter in franchise history. He matched that line in his 2015 debut on Monday.
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: In the second game of the three-game set with Houston, the Tribe will hand the ball to starter Carlos Carrasco on Wednesday. The big right-hander posted a 2.55 ERA in 40 appearances (14 starts) last season for the Indians, emerging as a strong No. 2 option behind Kluber. In his final 10 starts last year, Carrasco spun a 1.30 ERA in 69 innings.
Astros: Veteran right-hander Scott Feldman, who started on Opening Day for the Astros last year, will take the ball against Cleveland on Wednesday in the second game of the season. Feldman didn't have a great spring, though not unusual for him. In his first year with the Astros a year ago, he went 8-12 with a 3.74 ERA while making 29 starts, including 20 quality starts.