While trying to keep pace in the AL Wild Card hunt in September, the Astros were forced to send Brad Peacock to the hill against Cleveland ace Corey Kluber. Not exactly a recipe for success.
However, the final product was lovely as the Astros topped the Indians 4-3 to win a third consecutive game. Houston has won 13 of its last 17 games, and remains two games back of the second wild card spot in the American League.
The game took two big turns early on as Cleveland put runners on second and third with no one out in the first inning. Instead of folding, Peacock worked his way out of the jam by inducing three fly balls to keep the game scoreless.
Then in the top of the second with two outs, Evan Gattis and Colby Rasmus each worked a walk to set up a less than 100 percent Marwin Gonzalez. The do-it-all man for the Astros got himself an 0-2 curveball on the inner half and drilled a majestic homer over the right field wall.
Gonzalez finished with three extra-base hits, hitting two doubles later in the game - the last of which he gimped his way into second base.
Cleveland got a run back in the bottom of the second as Tyler Naquin drove in a run with a ground out, but once again Peacock avoided the big inning despite surrendering a pair of doubles in the frame.
Houston quickly responded with a run of its own as George Springer doubled to lead off the third and the ridiculously hot Alex Bregman tripled down the right field line to make it a 4-1 game. Kluber went seven innings, but allowed four runs on four hits and three walks. He had not allowed more than three runs in his last 10 starts (1.94 ERA in 69.2 innings)
Peacock had a short leash as Astros manager A.J. Hinch pulled him with two outs in the fourth. September callup James Hoyt stranded the lone runner Peacock left in the fourth and went on to pitch 1.1 scoreless. Peacock allowed five hits (three doubles) and a run in 3.2 innings.
Yearlong stalwarts Chris Devenski and Will Harris each pitched 1-2-3 innings, leading to Luke Gregerson in the eighth. Carlos Santana golfed a Gregerson pitch out for a solo homer, but retired the next three batters faced.
Then there was a far from comfortable ninth inning. Ken Giles allowed a leadoff single to Jose Ramirez before getting a strikeout, but a pair of wild pitches moved Ramirez to third before Coco Crisp was walked. Crisp then stole second, but a wild throw from Gattis behind the plate allowed Ramirez to walk home. An alert Jake Marisnick backed up the throw nicely in center field, keeping Crisp at second - a key moment.
Giles then induced a deep fly ball out from Tyler Naquin before forcing a check swing ground out from Brandon Guyer to seal the victory.
The starting pitching matchup again won't be in Houston's favor Wednesday as Doug Fister takes the hill for the Astros against Cleveland's Carlos Carrasco. Nevertheless, a good start for the Astros through 5-of-13 games against first place teams as they are 3-2.