CLEVELAND — It took 11 innings to beat the worst team in baseball Thursday night at Progressive Field. But at this point, the Indians will take a win anyway they can get one.
Fighting to stay alive in the American League wild-card race, Cleveland opened a four-game series against the last-place Astros with a dramatic extra-inning victory, turning back Houston 2-1.
The most unlikely of heroes — September call-up Matt Carson — won it for the Indians with a two-out, bases-loaded walk-off single off reliever Rhiner Cruz. Carson sent a hard grounder past a diving Jose Altuve at second base to touch off the celebration.
Carson, a career minor-leaguer, is now 7-for-9 (.778) since being called up.
With the win, the Indians remained a half-game out of a wild-card berth, with Texas and Tampa Bay tied for the AL’s extra playoff spots.
Offense was at a minimum for the majority of the night, with starting pitchers Ubaldo Jimenez and Houston left-hander Dallas Keuchel allowing just a run apiece while logging seven innings each.
Jimenez (12-9, 3.39 ERA) gave the Indians every opportunity to win, as his sparkling second half continued in earnest.
The right-hander, who won his fourth straight start, has allowed three earned runs or less in 11 straight outings since the All-Star break, posting a 1.83 ERA over nine starts entering the night.
Jimenez struck out nine batters after entering his 30th start with 10 or more strikeouts in three of his last four outings.
In his first 205 career games, Jimenez never had an outing with at least nine strikeouts and no walks, but he’s accomplished as much three times over his last five starts.
It appeared the Indians would start fast when they scored the game’s first run in the opening inning on an RBI single from slumping Jason Kipnis, who snapped an 0-for-11 skid.
Houston countered quickly, loading the bases with no outs with the aid of two bloop hits, to tie the game 1-1 on a sacrifice fly in the second.
The Astros had a runner picked off second base with no outs in the 10th by Cleveland catcher Yan Gomes and failed to score with a runner on third and one out against Indians closer Chris Perez in the ninth. Perez fanned the next two batters.
Contact Chris Assenheimer at (440) 329-7136 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Fan him on Facebook and follow him on Twitter @CAwesomeheimer.