CLEVELAND -- Playoff races can produce some unexpected heroes.
Say hello to Matt Carson.
"It's nice to see a good kid like that get rewarded like that," Cleveland Indians manager Terry Francona said after Carson lined a bases loaded single to right field with two outs in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Indians a 2-1 win over the Houston Astros on Thursday night.
"That's the pinnacle for me at this point in my career," said Carson.
The win allows the Indians to keep pace in the American League wild-card race. Cleveland started the day a half-game out of the second spot.
With one out in the bottom of the 11th, Yan Gomes singled and Asdrubal Cabrera reached on an infield single off Rhiner Cruz (0-2).
Michael Brantley lined out to center for the second out. But Mike Aviles drew a walk, loading the bases with two outs.
Carson then lined a single through the right side of the infield, scoring Gomes with the winning run. Carson, who was a September call-up from Triple-A Columbus, is 7-for-9 (.778) this month.
"It wasn't do or die," said Carson. "If I get a hit we win. If I don't, we're still in the ballgame. I was just trying to get a good solid swing, but it wasn't a pressure at-bat."
Following his hit, Carson was mobbed by his teammates on the infield.
"It's the greatest feeling," he said. "I have done it plenty of times with other guys. To be the guy getting mobbed, it feels good."
The win went to Bryan Shaw (5-3), who pitched a scoreless 11th. The Indians' offense was led by Nick Swisher, who matched his career best with four hits.
Ubaldo Jimenez started for Cleveland and was outstanding, pitching seven innings, throwing 98 pitches and allowing one run on six hits with nine strikeouts and no walks.
With No. 1 starter Justin Masterson missing most of September with a strained oblique, Jimenez has stepped up and pitched like the No. 1 starter he was in his heyday with Colorado.
"We're leaning on him, and he's enjoying it," said Francona.
In four September starts, Jimenez is 3-0 with a 0.64 ERA. In 28 1/3 innings he has allowed two earned runs on 25 hits, with 31 strikeouts and three walks.
Houston starter Dallas Keuchel was just as stingy. Keuchel pitched seven innings and held Cleveland to one run on seven hits with one walk. He threw 112 pitches and struck out seven.
"Any time you can limit a good team that's playing for the playoffs, it's pretty good," said Keuchel.
Cleveland took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Swisher doubled and scored on a single by Jason Kipnis, who snapped an 0-for-11 slide.
Jimenez came into the game with a career record of 4-0 and a 2.49 ERA vs. the Astros, but Houston tied it with a run in the second inning. Marc Krauss, Matt Dominguez and Chris Carter opened the inning with consecutive singles, loading the bases. However, Jimenez held Houston to a sacrifice fly by L.J. Hoes.
The Astros were hampered by a lack of timely hitting and some base running mistakes, including two runners picked off base and one caught stealing. Houston's hitters, who lead the majors with 1,437 strikeouts, were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position and they struck out 13 times.
"It's one thing to get beat, but it's another thing to beat yourself," said Houston manager Bo Porter. "We just squandered opportunity after opportunity with poor at bats and bad base running."
NOTES: Houston 2B Jose Altuve began the night with a major-league-high 32 hits in September and added another. ... Astros C Max Stassi began workouts with the instructional league team in Kissimmee, Fla., and is expected to return to the major league team before the end of the season. Stassi has been on the disabled list since Aug. 21 with a concussion. ... Cleveland RHP Justin Masterson, who has not pitched since Sept. 2, will throw a bullpen session Friday. He could pitch again before the end of the season. ... Cleveland RHP Zach McAllister will make his first career start against Houston when he starts Friday night. LHP Brett Oberholtzer will pitch for the Astros.