Astros drop season-high 9th in row, 9-2 to Indians
As his team was losing its ninth straight game and for the 105th time this season, Houston manager Bo Porter was hoping his young players had taken notes.
Erik Bedard was tagged for six runs in five-plus innings and the Astros limped into the final week of an awful season with a 9-2 loss on Sunday to the Indians, who became the first team since the 1961 New York Yankees to sweep six four-games series in the same year.
Following the game, Porter pulled aside rookie center fielder Brandon Barnes and second baseman Jose Altuve - two of Houston's potential stars - and made sure they appreciated the Indians, who tightened their grip on one of the AL wild-card spots.
''I grabbed a couple of our guys after the game and I told them before the series started,'' Porter said. ''I said, `Do you guys see what I'm talking about? The energy and focus that teams who know they're fighting for their playoff lives have? Did you see how they played these four games?'
''That's where we have to get. You look at their collective group. They have a really good team.''
Michael Brantley and Michael Bourn had two RBIs apiece for Cleveland, which won a pair of 2-1 games - the opener in 11 innings - to start the series before the Indians outscored the Astros 13-3 in the last two to complete the sweep.
Chris Carter homered for the Astros, who fell to 51-105 overall. In its inaugural AL campaign, Houston is two losses from matching the club record set last season.
Despite the incessant losing, Porter believes his team will scratch to the season's finish.
''Like I've said all year, they'll come back tomorrow,'' he said. We'll fight to the very end. The number of losses, whether it's consecutive losses, that's not going to prevent this group or us as a staff from coming in here every day and putting up our best fight.''
Astros right fielder Marc Krauss was not aware the losing streak was nearly at double digits.
''I didn't even realize it was that many in a row,'' Krauss said. ''It's frustrating. I feel like we've been in a lot of the games. We've had a lot of tough losses, especially lately.''
According to STATS, the Indians are the first team since the `61 Yankees, a team featuring Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, to sweep six four-games series. The Yankees went on to win the World Series that season.
''We've got a week to go and we're in a fun spot,'' Indians manager Terry Francona said. ''We have to keep winning.''
Brantley hit a two-out RBI single in the fourth inning Bedard (4-12) and Bourn tripled in a four-run sixth as the Indians moved 1 1-2 games ahead of Texas in the AL's wild-card scramble.
Bedard said it was apparent from the moment the Astros arrived in Cleveland that the Indians were locked in.
''We sensed that since we've been here,'' Bedard said. ''They're trying to go to the playoffs. When you're battling to get there, you battle every at-bat. They did that.''
Corey Kluber (10-5) dodged trouble throughout 5 1-3 innings and the Indians improved to 50-18 against teams with losing records. Cleveland may not have an abundance of All-Stars or household names, but rather a collection of players pulling together. And in October's chilly and electrified air, that's the kind of team that can win it all.
''When we're clicking on all cylinders, we're hard to deal with,'' Bourn said. ''We just keep fighting. We have a lot of ways to beat you.''
Leading 3-2, the Indians broke it open in the sixth, highlighted by Bourn's standup triple off reliever Philip Humber.
Bedard, who has lost nine of his last 10 decisions, gave up a leadoff single and hit a batter before Brantley chased the left-hander with an RBI single to make 4-2. After Aviles sacrificed, Bourn brought in two more runs with his shot into the right-field corner.
''They hit good pitches and I threw some bad pitches,'' Bedard said.
The Astros, who lost 106 games in 2011 and 107 last year, will have a tough time avoiding making unwanted history. They'll play three games at Texas before finishing with three at home against the New York Yankees. The Astros are 2-14 against the Rangers.
''You don't want to end the season on a losing streak and carry that into the offseason,'' Porter said. ''We definitely want to get into the last week of the season and try to put together a nice little winning streak.''
NOTES: As part of the usual rookie initiation, Houston's first-year players wore unusual outfits as they continued the final road trip. Pitcher Jarred Cosart wore a cow costume while pitcher Brett Oberholtzer donned a prison jumpsuit. Catcher Brandon Laird and pitcher Brad Peacock were dressed as matching hot dogs. ... Plate umpire CB Bucknor took a foul tip off his right shoulder in the eighth, but stayed in the game. ... The Astros have scored just 14 runs during their nine-game slide.