HOUSTON -- At some point the sample size becomes large enough to take notice, to ponder if there is something brewing in the numbers.
Right-hander Trevor Bauer continued his mastery of the Houston Astros with seven shutout innings as the Cleveland Indians squared the three-game series with a 4-0 win on Tuesday night at Minute Maid Park.
Bauer (3-0) improved to 4-0 with a 0.67 ERA in four career outings against the Astros (13-21) by utilizing a dazzling array of pitches. From his fastball through his curve and changeup, Bauer worked with haste and audacity, allowing three hits and three walks with seven strikeouts.
Only once did Bauer face a batter with a runner in scoring position, and when Astros third baseman Luis Valbuena doubled with one out in the fifth inning, Bauer followed by getting Erik Kratz to ground out before second baseman Jose Altuve flailed at a wicked curveball.
"Fastball command, really," Indians catcher Chris Gimenez said of what propelled Bauer. "We've been trying to get him to simplify things. He's got too good of stuff to go out there and overthink it. He needs to let his stuff play for him, and he's got such late movement on a lot of his pitches."
The Indians (16-14) scratched across a pair of runs against Astros rookie right-hander Chris Devenski (0-2) in the second inning before doubling their 2-0 lead with two runs off right-handed reliever Josh Fields in the eighth. Francisco Lindor and Mike Napoli delivered run-scoring hits in the eighth to squash any potential for an Astros rally.
The Astros, shut out for just the second time this season, will seek a winning record to close their 10-game homestand with right-hander Doug Fister opposing Indians righty Danny Salazar on Wednesday.
"He's obviously been tough on us," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said of Bauer. "We haven't done much in my time here against him, and I guess it's not that difficult to figure out. He's got good stuff, and he is all over the place either by design or just by controlled wildness."
Lindor deserved an assist for the uprising in the second, as his 15-pitch at-bat in the first provided his teammates scouting material.
Lindor ultimately lined into a double play to close the first, but when Devenski returned to the mound an inning later, the Indians pounced.
Napoli and Carlos Santana reached to open the frame via a single and a walk, an ominous start for Devenski, who labored for 23 pitches in the second. Devenski surrendered a fielder's choice RBI to Juan Uribe when he failed to cleanly field a grounder back to the mound, allowing Napoli just enough time to slide in under the tag of Kratz.
Lonnie Chisenhall followed with a run-scoring double to right, plating Santana and doubling the Cleveland lead. Immediately thereafter, Devenski found his groove, retiring six consecutive batters before facing the minimum in the fourth inning when Kratz erased Jose Ramirez, who singled and tried to swipe second.
Devenski worked around a Gimenez one-out single in the fifth, retired the side in order in the sixth, and induced a double-play grounder from Uribe before walking Chisenhall. He departed having allowing two runs on five hits and two walks with five strikeouts over 6 2/3 innings.
"I felt like it was good. It was in the right direction," Devenski said of his start. "I just had that one inning. I have to get over those little one-inning hiccups and keep moving forward."
Devenski was good. Bauer was magnificent against Houston -- again.
"I don't know," Bauer said when asked to explain he success against the Astros. "You see that with different pitchers where they just pitch really well against one team for whatever reason or in one city or something. I can't really explain it."
NOTES: Indians LF Michael Brantley will miss the remainder of the series to ease his workload after offseason right shoulder surgery. He was activated from the disabled list on April 25. With Cleveland set for a scheduled off day Thursday, Brantley will have three days to rest before the Indians host Minnesota on Friday. ... Astros C Jason Castro was placed on the paternity list after the birth of a son Tuesday. The club expects Castro to return this weekend for the series in Boston. The club recalled C Max Stassi from Triple-A Fresno, where he hit .143/.200/.143 during four games on a rehab assignment (left wrist fracture). ... Astros RHP Lance McCullers (right shoulder soreness) threw a bullpen session and is on schedule to make his season debut this weekend in Boston. He worked five scoreless innings for Triple-A Fresno on Saturday in his lone rehab appearance.