HOUSTON - Three relievers preserved a shaky yet successful start from Lucas Harrell as the Houston Astros snapped a five-game skid with a 3-2 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros (5-11) benefited greatly from the double play, as Hector 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 elude danger in the third and fifth frames.
Houston left-hander Wesley Wright stranded the tying run at second base in the seventh inning and Astros closer Jose Veras worked around a Drew Stubbs single in the ninth to record his first save on the season.
All told, the Indians (5-10) stranded nine in dropping their fifth straight.
Indians right-hander Brett Myers 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 homers 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 lead, bringing home Carlos Pena, who had walked. Ankiel followed with his fourth homer, crushing a 3-2 slider for a 3-0 lead.
Given how Harrell struggled with his control, that advantage seemed tenuous. Harrell walked five Indians while pitching into the sixth. The third walk proved costly as Cleveland third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall followed Mark Reynolds' base on balls with a two-run homer to right field in the top of the fourth.
Harrell met expectations relative to his reputation for getting ground-ball outs. He escaped danger in the third, inducing an inning-ending double play by Swisher. And after walking Michael Brantley and Jason Kipnis to open the fifth, Harrell retired Asdrubal Cabrera and Swisher on grounders, Cabrera via another a double play. Harrell departed with two outs in the sixth.
NOTES: Indians manager Terry 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.