CLEVELAND — One of Indians manager Terry Francona's longstanding mantras is that momentum in baseball only comes down to the next day's opposing starting pitcher.

And in Justin Verlander, the Indians ran into a buzzsaw of a momentum killer in a 2-0 loss to the Houston Astros on Tuesday night at Progressive Field.

Not entirely unlike how the Indians seemed to hit a brick wall last October against the Astros in the American League Division Series, Verlander locked down the Indians' lineup. The Astros did enough against Shane Bieber to come out on top.

Verlander (14-4) was at the top of his Cy-Young-level self, striking out 13 in seven innings and allowing only two hits. The Indians went three-up, three-down five times against Verlander.

Bieber (10-4) didn't start quite as sharp, allowing a few hits up the middle in the first inning alone, but he was able to keep pace with Verlander on the scoreboard. That was until the fifth inning, when the Astros broke the scoreless tie.

Astros catcher Robinson Chirinos, the No. 9 hitter, provided all the offense the Astros would need with one swing, a solo home run that cleared the wall in right-center field. As soon as it left the bat, Bieber crouched on the mound in frustration, knowing it was gone.

The Astros (69-39), via a former friendly face at Progressive Field, then added an insurance run. Jose Altuve doubled to left field and was followed by former Indians outfielder Michael Brantley, who roped a single to right field to score Altuve. Tyler Naquin made a strong, diving effort to take the run off the board and came close enough that the Indians challenged the play, but it was a challenge that they lost.

The Indians came away with only two singles against Verlander. Their fortune against the Astros' bullpen wasn't much better.

Will Harris relieved Verlander in the eighth and pitched a 1-2-3 inning of his own that included two strikeouts. In the ninth, Roberto Osuna (24 saves) closed the door and didn't have much more trouble putting the Indians' offense away for good.

Tuesday's game was the beginning of a difficult month-long stretch for the Indians (62-44) that includes series against every contender in the American League except for the Oakland Athletics.

Ryan Lewis can be reached at rlewis@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at @ByRyanLewis.