Indians jump on Astros early to win, keep lead in wildcard
Cleveland, OH -- Scott Kazmir pitched seven shutout innings and Cleveland scored three runs in the first as the Indians beat the Houston Astros 4-1 Saturday night at Progressive Field.
The Indians began Saturday with a half-game lead over Texas for the second American League Wild Card spot. Cleveland, who has won eight of its last 10 games, trails Tampa Bay by a half-game for the Wild Card lead.
The Indians passed Texas with a rain-shortened 2-1 win Friday, moving into a playoff spot for the first time since Aug. 5. Following the series finale Sunday, Cleveland hosts the Chicago White Sox for two games before playing four games at Minnesota to close the regular season.
Kazmir (9-9, 4.14) allowed just four hits over seven innings of work, striking out 10. He rebounded from his failure to pitch more than five innings in five of his last seven starts, a period in which he had gone 1-5 with a 5.82 ERA.
After allowing a leadoff single to Jonathan Villar to open the game, Kazmir did not allow another base runner until a leadoff single by Chris Carter in the fifth.
Cody Allen replaced Kazmir after a leadoff double in the seventh and retired the next three batters in order, two by strikeout. Joe Smith pitched the ninth and allowed a solo homer to Carter, his 28th of the season, before finishing the game. It was the first home run allowed by Smith since July 4 in Kansas City.
The Indians got to Houston starter Paul Clemens right away in the first, as Michael Bourn and Nick Swisher doubled and singled to put runners on second and third with no outs. Jason Kipnis hit a sacrifice fly to center, scoring Bourn and putting the Indians up 1-0. After a fly out by Carlos Santana, Michael Brantley hit a two-run homer to right, his ninth of the season, to extend the lead to 3-0.
Cleveland added an insurance run in the fourth when Yan Gomes doubled to open the inning and scored on a single by Lonnie Chisenhall.
Clemens (4-6, 5.69) allowed four runs in four and two-thirds innings in his fourth start of the season. He had made 30 appearances out of the bullpen. Lucas Harrell provided effective relief over the final three and one-third innings, scattering two hits and two walks.
Overall, the Indians picked up 10 hits on the night. Asdrubal Cabrera led the team with three hits while Bourn and Gomes both had two hits apiece.
The Astros and Indians will play the finale of the series Sunday at 1:05 p.m. Lefty Erik Bedard (4-11, 4.60) will face off against right-hander Corey Kluber (9-5, 3.62).
Nathan Kemp graduated from The University of Akron in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. He plans to pursue a graduate degree through NEOMFA in the fall. Follow him on Twitter @NathanCKemp.