Scott Kazmir allowed four hits in seven shutout innings, Michael Brantley hit a two-run homer and the Cleveland Indians maintained their hold on an AL wild-card spot with a 4-1 win over the Houston Astros on Saturday night.
Cleveland began Saturday with a half-game lead over Texas for the AL’s second wild card. The Indians, who have won eight of their last 10, trail Tampa Bay by a half-game for the wild-card lead.
The Indians passed Texas with Friday’s rain-shortened 2-1 win, moving into a wild-card spot for the first time since before play on Aug. 5. Following Sunday’s series finale, Cleveland hosts the Chicago White Sox for two games before closing the regular season with four games at Minnesota.
Houston, a major league-worst 51-104, is on a season-high eight-game losing streak and has totaled just 12 runs during the skid. The Astros scored when Chris Carter homered against Joe Smith with two outs in the ninth.
Kazmir (9-9) struck out 10 and walked two. He had been 1-5 with a 5.82 ERA ERA in his previous seven starts.
He gave up Jonathan Villar’s single to start the game, then included a double-play grounder from Jose Altuve and didn’t allow another runner until a single opening the fifth by Carter, who had three hits.
Cody Allen relieved following to L.J. Hoes’ leadoff double in the eighth
Nick Swisher, who picked up the tab for a postgame fireworks show, scored a run, had a hit and walked twice. Saturday’s attendance of 26,611 was the Indians’ largest crowd since they drew 26,870 against Minnesota on Aug. 24.
Brantley’s home run capped Cleveland’s three-run first inning. Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall also drove in runs for Cleveland.
Paul Clemens (4-6) allowed four runs in 4 2-3 innings in his fourth start of the season after making 30 appearances out of the bullpen.
Notes: Francona said RHP Justin Masterson (strained left oblique) likely will throw a simulated game today or Monday. It’s possible Masterson, who left his start against Baltimore on Sept. 2 in the second inning, will be ready to pitch in relief before the regular season ends. ... Francona said he contacted Boston manager John Farrell after the Red Sox clinched the AL East on Friday night. Farrell was Boston’s pitching coach during Francona’s tenure as manager and the two are friends. ... Astros 3B Matt Dominguez (left hand) returned to the lineup after sitting out one game. He was struck on the left hand Thursday by a pitch from Indians RHP Chris Perez. “Matt said it’s still a little sore, but he’s a pretty tough guy,” manager Bo Porter said. ... Astros LHP Erik Bedard (4-11) takes on Indians RHP Corey Kluber (9-5) in the four-game series finale today.