Cesar Hernandez blast lifts Indians past Astros

Cesar Hernandez clubbed his 16th home run with one out in the seventh inning and the Cleveland Indians won a back-and-forth affair over the host Houston Astros 5-4 Wednesday.

Hernandez snapped a 4-4 tie by drilling a 3-2 changeup from Astros reliever Austin Pruitt 425 feet into the home bullpen in right-center field. Pruitt (0-1) was making his second appearance with the Astros after missing all of 2020 and the first half of this season with an elbow injury.

The Indians won the series and season finale against Houston after entering Wednesday 0-6 against the Astros. Cleveland blew leads of 1-0 and 4-2 before Hernandez delivered late.

Eli Morgan started for Cleveland and allowed three runs on three hits with five strikeouts and no walks through five innings.

Bryan Shaw (3-3) allowed a run in the sixth, but Hernandez’s homer gave the Indians the lead. Right-handers Phil Maton, Emmanuel Clase and James Karinchak preserved the one-run lead, with Karinchak earning his 11th save with a perfect ninth.

Jose Altuve and Kyle Tucker slugged their 23rd and 17th homers in the fourth and fifth innings, respectively, off Indians starter Eli Morgan. Altuve added an RBI double and later scored in the sixth as the Astros knotted the score.

Astros starter Lance McCullers Jr. struggled throughout to gain traction. He faced just one batter over the minimum through two easy innings of work but labored to complete the third, facing six batters while throwing 34 pitches. Indians first baseman Yu Chang opened the frame with a single and McCullers walked Bradley Zimmer before losing a lengthy battle with Hernandez.

Hernandez fouled off six consecutive pitches before slapping a changeup the opposite way to left field that scored Chang for a 1-0 lead. McCullers fanned Franmil Reyes for a second time to close the inning and retired the Indians in order in the fourth before allowing consecutive one-out hits in the fifth before the first three Indians reached safely to open the sixth inning.

McCullers struck out eight over five-plus innings but walked two batters and allowed six hits. The Astros had claimed a 2-1 lead before McCullers ceded the mound to reliever Bryan Abreu, who inherited a bases-loaded jam and quickly retired the first two batters before surrendering a bases-clearing double to nine-hole hitter Ernie Clement on the first pitch of their confrontation.

McCullers was charged with four earned runs, his most since allowing six to Detroit on April 14.