HOUSTON -- Cleveland closer Chris Perez saved the Indians' 5-4 win in a literal sense on Sunday, but the biggest assist likely came just four batters into the bottom of the first inning at Minute Maid Park.
Indians center fielder Drew Stubbs made a spectacular running catch to stymie an early Houston rally, setting the stage for Cleveland to bash four solo homers and for Perez to pitch out of a ninth-inning jam.
The Astros (5-13) loaded the bases with one out in the ninth against Perez, but he picked up his second save this season by striking out Chris Carter before getting Jason Castro to ground out to third baseman Mark Reynolds. The Astros stranded eight runners in their final four at-bats and finished 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position.
"At least in that situation, you have to hit the ball," Carter said. "Get a sac fly and get the runner in to tie the game. I struck out there on a tough pitch (a 2-and-2 slider)."
Castro said, "We need to keep having those good situational at-bats. That is going to be what's key for us moving forward is for us to capitalize. Obviously, it's nice to get hits with nobody is on because that's how it starts. When guys are in position, get guys over and get them in any way you can."
Perez was one of five Cleveland relievers who combined for four scoreless innings. Right-hander Cody Allen (1-0) posted his first major-league victory by getting the final out of the sixth inning.
"Our bullpen is one of our strengths," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "(Cleveland starter) Ubaldo (Jimenez) was throwing the ball pretty well and his pitch count wasn't high (65 pitches), but with who was coming up and (Fernando) Martinez had already taken two really good swings, we get him out of the game and we get the right-handers in so our righties can face them coming around. That was the idea."
Jimenez had Stubbs to thank for helping limit the damage in the first.
After Martinez, recalled from triple-A Oklahoma City on Saturday, followed a leadoff walk from Jose Altuve by drilling the first pitch he saw into the Crawford Boxes in left, Castro added a single to center. Brandon Laird then cranked an 0-and-2 fastball deep into the right-center field gap, a ball Stubbs somewhat miraculously tracked down and caught.
Castro had already rounded second base by the time Stubbs tracked down the ball, making Castro an easy victim of the subsequent double play. Jimenez settled down immediately, inducing a ground-ball out from Carlos Pena to close the first inning and continue a string of 14 consecutive batters retired.
"With the big outfield there, balls that are ordinarily home runs in a lot of parks are able to get tracked down," Stubbs said. "So I knew I had a chance at it and luckily was able to get a good jump. That play was a turning point for the game.
"I just turned and tried to get it in as quick as possible knowing that the way the ball was hit (Castro) might be trying to advance. Fortunately, we were able to make a good relay and get the double play."
By the time Jimenez retook the mound in the sixth, the Indians flipped a 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 lead courtesy of solo home runs from Van Gomes in the second, Carlos Santana in the fifth and Stubbs in the sixth. Ryan Raburn added an RBI single that scored Santana in the third.
Reynolds' seventh homer run of the season, and second of the series, pushed the Indians ahead to stay in the seventh. Cleveland signed Reynolds away from the Baltimore Orioles as a free agent looking to add some thump to the middle of its order. In the previous five seasons with the Orioles and Arizona Diamondbacks, Reynolds ranked eighth in the majors with 164 homers and produced a .472 slugging percentage.
"He's versatile and he likes to play," Francona said of Reynolds. "And that (defensive) play he made (in the ninth) ... he's been a pleasure. He does whatever you ask him to do and he does it with a smile."
NOTES: The Astros recalled left-hander Brett Oberholtzer from triple-A Oklahoma City and optioned left-hander Dallas Keuchel. Three Houston starters have failed to pitch beyond the first inning in the past week, a development that taxed the bullpen and necessitated the recalling of Oberholtzer, a starter who can provide long relief. ... The Indians placed right-hander Brett Myers on the 15-day disabled list with right flexor tendon discomfort. Myers returned to Cleveland on Sunday to undergo an MRI on his right forearm. ... Indians shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera left Saturday night's game with a left wrist contusion, but his condition has improved enough that he could play Monday against the Chicago White Sox. Cabrera was not in the lineup Sunday in Houston. ... Indians right-hander Matt Albers might rejoin the club in Chicago. Albers is on the restricted list tending to a family issue.