CLEVELAND -- The Cleveland Indians did not score often, but they scored early, and it proved to be enough for their pitching staff.
On the strength of a quality start from right-hander Trevor Bauer and productivity out of the bullpen, the Indians made the early advantage stand up in a 5-3 win over the Texas Rangers at Progressive Field Wednesday night.
With the win, the Indians kept their half-game lead over the Minnesota Twins in the American League Central Division and improved to 41-36 on the year, as well as 17-21 at Progressive Field, while the Rangers fell back to 39-39 with a 17-22 mark away from Globe Life Park in Arlington, Texas.
The Indians got on the scoreboard with a run in the bottom of the first inning.
Second baseman Jason Kipnis led off the game with a fly ball to left field on a 3-1 pitch from Texas starter Yu Darvish. Left fielder Nomar Mazara lost track of the ball, which allowed it to fall to the ground as Kipnis motored safely into second.
Then, shortstop Francisco Lindor followed with an RBI single to right field.
The Indians looked to make it a big inning when left fielder Michael Brantley reached on a fielder’s choice and designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion doubled to left field to put a pair of runners in scoring position with only one out, but Brantley was erased on a force at the plate and right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall struck out to end the threat.
The Indians extended their advantage over the Rangers to 3-0 with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third inning.
As in the first frame, Kipnis got the offense rolling with a five-pitch walk, and later, he hustled over to third base when Lindor smacked a single to the gap in center field. Brantley brought around Kipnis with a single to center field.
After Encarnacion hit into a fielder’s choice, third baseman Jose Ramirez singled to right field, which drove in Lindor and moved Encarnacion over to third base. However, Ramirez was caught in a rundown in-between first and second bases, and that, along with another Chisenhall strikeout, short-circuited the rally.
The Rangers got back one run on designated hitter Robinson Chirinos’ solo homer to the visiting bullpen in center field, but the Indians returned the favor with a pair of RBI singles from Brantley and Encarnacion in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Center fielder Bradley Zimmer drew a lead-off walk against Rangers reliever Ernesto Frieri, and catcher Roberto Perez followed with a second-straight free pass. Each runner moved up 90 feet when Kipnis dropped down a sacrifice bunt.
Lindor was walked intentionally, and after the Rangers went to the bullpen once again for Dario Alvarez, Brantley brought home Zimmer and Encarnacion drove in Perez with consecutive singles to left field, which gave Cleveland a 5-1 lead after seven innings.
Over 6.1 innings of work against the Rangers, Bauer scattered four hits and one walk against three strikeouts. Bauer located the strike zone with 61 of his 103 pitches and lowered his season earned run average to 5.24.
Bauer improved to 7-6 on the season with the victory.
After replacing Bauer in the seventh, left-handed reliever Andrew Miller struck out four Rangers hitters and did not allow a hit or walk over his 1.2 innings of work.