HOUSTON -- Three times during their five-game road losing streak the Houston Astros worked their way into contention effectively enough to see the opposing closer. On Friday night, a close win found their ledger.
Three relievers preserved a shaky yet successful start from right-hander Lucas Harrell, and the Astros snapped that five-game skid with a 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians at Minute Maid Park.
Wesley Wright, Hector Ambriz and Jose Veras each worked around base runners while protecting the one-run lead Harrell handed Wright in the sixth inning. That trio eluded danger on each occasion, thanks in large part to timely ground balls and the handiwork of able infielders.
"I stress this all the time: There are going to be different break points in the game, and when you win those break points you put yourself in the best position to win the ball game," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "And we were able to do that, and those guys continued to make pitches and made quality pitches to get out of those tough jams. Defensively we picked up the ball and made the plays when we needed to make them."
The Astros (5-11) benefited greatly from the double play, as Ambriz worked around a leadoff double from Nick Swisher and a one-out walk to Carlos Santana in the eighth inning by getting Mark Reynolds to bounce into an inning-ending double play. Harrell induced a pair of critical double plays to snuff Cleveland rallies in the third and fifth.
Wright stranded the tying run at second base in the seventh and Veras worked around Drew Stubbs' single in the ninth to record his first save.
Cleveland (5-10) stranded nine runners in dropping its fifth straight.
"We did have opportunities," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "I think what happens sometimes is, guys try too hard. We had a couple of chances, and we rolled over. We had opportunities to win that game because of our pitching."
Indians right-hander Brett Myers (0-3) opened his third start having allowed eight home runs, his average of 4.41 homers per nine innings well above his career high of 2.29 per nine innings allowed with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2009. And while three appearances (two starts) represented a small sample, the Astros took advantage nevertheless.
Corner outfielders J.D. Martinez and Rick Ankiel touched Myers for back-to-back home runs in the bottom of the second, both depositing pitches into the right-field seats. Martinez turned a 1-0 cut fastball into a 2-0 advantage, bringing home Carlos Pena, who had walked. Ankiel followed with his fourth homer, crushing a 3-2 slider for a 3-0 lead.
Myers spent two-plus seasons with the Astros (2010-12), and that familiarity, combined with a nagging injury, benefited Houston.
"Obviously he pitched here," Porter said of Myers. "(Astros pitching coach) Dougie (Brocail) was the pitching coach so he knows him pretty well. Some of the guys know him, so they talked about it pregame."
Said Myers: "I've been fighting some tendinitis in the flexor tendon (right hand/forearm), and I guess they wanted to check and see if I was all right because my velocity went down. I don't know why, but it just happened. I've still got to compete and get people out."
Harrell (1-2) walked five while pitching into the sixth. The third walk proved costly as Cleveland third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall followed Reynolds' base on balls with a two-run homer to right field in the fourth.
But in the third, Harrell induced an inning-ending double play from Swisher. And after walking Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis to open the fifth, Harrell retired Asdrubal Cabrera and Swisher on grounders, Cabrera via another double play. Harrell left with two outs in the sixth.
"I was struggling to throw strikes again; it's just kind of been a trend right now," Harrell said. "It's something I need to work on between starts and definitely focus on that. If the defense wouldn't have played so well and if we wouldn't have scored some runs early, it could have been a rough night."
NOTES: Francona made his major-league debut on this date in 1981 at the Astrodome in Houston as a pinch hitter with the Montreal Expos. Francona grounded out to first base against Astros reliever Dave Smith. ... Astros left-hander Travis Blackley began a rehab assignment on Thursday with Class AAA Oklahoma City, allowing one earned run in two innings. Blackley has been on the disabled listed since April 5 because of a left shoulder strain. ... Of the five native Texans playing for the Indians, three are Houstonians: outfielder Michael Bourn, left-hander Scott Kazmir and right-hander Matt Albers. ... Albers was placed on the restricted list because of a family issue. He was originally placed on paternity leave and then transferred to the family emergency list. Albers was scheduled to return Friday but was moved to the restricted list to receive additional time at home. He threw a bullpen session on Friday and is scheduled for another on Saturday. He could return to the active roster on Monday for a game at the Chicago White Sox. ... Martinez departed in the fourth inning with a right knee sprain, an injury suffered during his second at-bat. He is listed as day to day.