CLEVELAND — The Indians were more than happy to accept some help from the Houston Astros and Mother Nature on Friday night.
Cleveland scored a pair of unearned runs, including the game-winner on a rare double-error, to beat Houston 2-1 in a game shortened to 6½ innings by heavy rain. The umpires called the contest at 10:21 p.m. — after a mere 69-minute delay.
The win moved the Tribe into the second American League wild-card spot with an 84-70 record, a half-game ahead of Texas. The Rangers lost 2-1 in Kansas City, while Tampa Bay went to extra innings against Baltimore. The Rays own the top wild-card position by percentage points.
“To be able to shorten the game helped us a little bit tonight,” Indians first baseman Nick Swisher said, smiling broadly. “It’s all about the W’s at this point. We’ve got eight games left, and this is pretty cool being part of the playoff race.”
With the game tied 1-1 in the fourth, Cleveland designated hitter Ryan Raburn scored what proved to be the final run of the night off Astros left-hander Brett Oberholtzer (4-4, 2.71 ERA).
Michael Brantley hit a chopper to Houston first baseman Chris Carter, who attempted to turn an inning-ending double play but threw the ball past second baseman Jose Altuve. Left fielder Marc Krauss picked it up and air-mailed it over the head of catcher Carlos Corporan, allowing Raburn to race home.
“We didn’t do a whole lot offensively tonight, but we’re going home with a win,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “We’ll take them any way we can. Whatever the score is, we just need to be one run better.”
Cleveland’s other run also was aided by an Astros error, which also wiped out a potential inning-ending double play.
The Astros led 1-0 in the second when Tribe shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera hit a hard grounder to third baseman Brandon Laird, who could have started a 5-4-3 twin-killing by fielding it cleanly.
Laird, however, had the ball ricochet off his glove and bounce directly to shortstop Jonathan Villar, who immediately mishandled it. Cabrera was safe at first and Carlos Santana slid into second.
After Brantley singled to load the bases, Indians third baseman Mike Aviles brought home Santana on a fielder’s choice.
“Errors are a part of the game — we all know that — but at the same time, you expect those plays to be made in a Major League Baseball game,” said Houston manager Bo Porter, whose squad has the worst record in baseball at 51-103. “We arguably could be standing here with a 1-0 victory.”
Instead, Cleveland right-hander Zach McAllister (8-9, 3.88 ERA) earned the win with five-plus innings of work and Bryan Shaw picked up his first save of the season.
McAllister surrendered four hits and two walks, but his only mistake came in the second when Laird blasted a 413-foot homer into the bleachers in left.
“Wins are wins. It doesn’t matter how they come, especially this late in the season,” McAllister said. “This is an exciting time for us right now. To be where we are, you can’t ask for anything better as a player.”
Marc Rzepczynski relieved McAllister one batter into the sixth and retired both hitters he faced, while Shaw worked the final 1 1/3 innings. It was Shaw’s third career save, with the other two occurring with Arizona last season.
Oberholtzer was credited with his second complete game after pitching seven innings and scattering four hits without an earned run. Both teams finished with four hits, but Houston had three errors to zero by Cleveland.
“That’s baseball,” Oberholtzer said. “They’re a playoff team and it’s a playoff atmosphere, and they put pressure on us to make some plays. We just came up short. It’s a tough loss.”
A crowd of 17,310 was on hand to watch the Tribe move into a playoff position for the first time since Aug. 4.
Contact Brian Dulik at firstname.lastname@example.org.