Carlos Carrasco struck out 10 batters in 6 1/3 scoreless innings, and Carlos Santana and Mike Aviles each hit solo homers to lead the Indians to a 2-0 win over the Astros on Wednesday night at Minute Maid Park.
"He came out with really explosive stuff," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Carrasco. "He pitched out of a couple innings when he had to. The stuff was so good, and he threw his offspeed off it. And poise. That was really nice to see."
Santana lofted a hanging 3-2 pitch from Astros starter Scott Feldman over the wall in right field with one out in the fourth for Cleveland's first run of the season, and Aviles -- a late addition to the lineup after Michael Brantley was scratched -- sent a solo blast to left against reliever Pat Neshek to lead off the eighth.
Feldman gave the Astros another strong starting performance by holding the Indians to just one run on Santana's homer in 6 2/3 innings. He allowed five hits, didn't walk a batter and struck out five, putting his shaky spring behind him.
"Sometimes you've got to just tip your cap," Feldman said. "Carrasco was pretty lights out for them tonight. It's just one of those games. For the most part, if we surrender two runs on any given night, we'll probably win most of those games with our lineup."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Feliz cumpleanos: Santana has had a knack for coming through on his birthday over the course of his career. Cleveland's first baseman was at it again in the fourth, when he ended an eight-pitch battle with Feldman by ripping a pitch into the right-field seats for a solo homer. Santana, who turned 29 on Wednesday, has hit .333 (6-for-18) with three homers and six RBIs in the big leagues (2011-15) on his birthday.
"I feel great," Santana said. "This is not new for me. Every year I try to get a home run for my birthday." More >
Feldman answers bell: Feldman didn't exactly have the kind of spring that leads to confidence entering the season (6.87 ERA in 18 1/3 innings), but manager A.J. Hinch said he wasn't concerned. Feldman took the ball for the first time and pitched well, allowing five hits and one run -- a solo homer to Santana -- in 6 ⅔ innings. He didn't walk a batter and struck out five.
"Really one pitch, an early recognized breaking ball to Santana, was the only misfire," Hinch said. "It was a really good outing by him. He had plenty left in the tank and was in complete control and missing bats and getting the ball on the ground. Just did a really, really good job of executing pitches." More >
Carrasco's carryover: Carrasco emerged as one of baseball's top arms late last season, spinning a 1.30 ERA in his final 10 starts of the year. The big righty picked up right where he left off in his first outing this season. In a double-digit strikeout performance, Carrasco walked one, scattered three hits and kept Houston off the scoreboard. The outing came one day after Cleveland inked him to a four-year, $22-million extension.
"Everything [was working]," Carrasco said. "My fastball, curveball, changeup, slider. I felt great. I think I did a great job with [catcher Yan] Gomes. Before the game, we went through everything. That's why it went great." More >
Killer K's: Everyone knew the Astros had a chance to rack up some high strikeout totals this year, and they struck out 13 times, including 10 against Carrasco on Wednesday. Luis Valbuena and Evan Gattis, who were occupying the third and fourth spots in the lineup, combined to go 0-for-8 with seven strikeouts. George Springer, hitting second, struck out twice before hitting a double in the sixth inning.
"I understand it's part of the game," Hinch said. "It's something we always have to address and monitor, but we almost struck out double-digits of their hitters as well. It speaks both to pitching and offensive adjustments." More >
One-pitch wonder: Indians lefty Marc Rzepczynski led the Majors with five one-pitch appearances last season and he was up to his old tricks on Wednesday night. With one out and runners on first and second base, Francona summoned Rzepczynski from the bullpen to face Colby Rasmus. One pitch later, Rasmus grounded into a critical inning-ending double play.
"Zep came in and got a huge out," Francona said. "Zep comes in and gets the one-pitch double play. It was huge on a night where there's not a ton of wiggle room."
QUOTABLE "It's just good to get the season underway and get your first win under your belt as a team. We patched it together and scrapped out a win tonight, which is always good." -- Indians closer Cody Allen, who collected his first save of the year
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Carrasco's outing represented only the seventh time since 1914 that an Indians pitcher had at least 10 strikeouts and no more than one walk in 6 1/3 or fewer innings. Carrasco also accomplished the feat on Sept. 2 last season.
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Right-hander Trevor Bauer is in an Opening Day rotation for the first time in his young career, and his first start of 2015 will come in Thursday's afternoon tilt against the Astros. Cleveland's No. 3 starter went 5-8 with a 4.18 ERA in 26 starts last year, striking out 143 batters in 153 innings. The game will be televised on SportsTime Ohio and will be aired on WTAM 1100 AM, WMMS 100.7 FM and across the Indians Radio Network.
Astros: Right-hander Asher Wojciechowski will make his Major League debut when he starts Thursday's series finale at 1:10 p.m. CT at Minute Maid Park. He won a spot in the rotation after allowing 17 hits and six runs (three earned) in 21 innings in the spring. The Astros will also get their first look at catcher Hank Conger, who was acquired in a trade in November and will catch Wojciechowski. The game will air on ROOT Sports Southwest and 790 AM (KBME) in Houston.