CLEVELAND (AP) — Terry Francona knows style points don’t matter when a team is chasing a playoff spot.
Even though Thursday night’s 2-1 win over Houston took 11 innings and featured several twists and turns, the Cleveland Indians manager wasn’t about to be picky.
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“We’ll take any win any way we can get it,” he said.
Matt Carson hit a winning single with two outs and the bases loaded and the Indians closed within a half-game in the AL wild card race. The fact the heroics came from an unlikely source made the victory even more special. Carson has spent most of his 12-year career in the minors, but came through at a crucial moment.
“That’s the pinnacle for me at this point in my career,” said Carson, who was called up from Triple-A Columbus on Aug. 28.
“That’s nice to see,” Francona said. “He spent the whole year at Triple-A, and comes up here and impacts the major league team. It’s rewarding to see a kid get rewarded like that.”
Yan Gomes singled with one out against Rhiner Cruz (0-2), and Asdrubal Cabrera reached on an infield single, beating the throw after third baseman Marwin Gonzalez charged and barehanded his slow roller.
Trevor Crowe caught Michael Brantley’s liner to center and nearly doubled Gomes off second, and Mike Aviles loaded the bases with a walk.
Carson, who entered the game as a defensive replacement the previous inning, hit a grounder under the glove of second baseman Jose Altuve for Cleveland’s 10th walkoff win this season.
“It wasn’t do or die,” he said. “If I get a hit we win. If I don’t we’re still in the ballgame. I was trying to get a good solid swing. It wasn’t a pressure at-bat.”
Carson was mobbed by his teammates who poured out of the dugout and doused the reserve outfielder with water.
“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.”
Tampa Bay and Texas (83-69) are tied for the two wild cards.
Cleveland (83-70), trying to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007, has three more games against the major league-worst Astros (51-102), who have had seven losing streaks of six games or more. The Indians then host the Chicago White Sox for two games and finish with four at Minnesota.
Bryan Shaw (5-3) pitched the 11th for the win.
The Astros not only came to town with a five-game losing streak, they were also weary. The players checked into their downtown Cleveland hotel at 6:30 a.m. following a 13-inning home game Wednesday night. Houston lost to Cincinnati 6-5 at Minute Maid Park in a contest that lasted 5 hours, 13 minutes.
Astros manager Bo Porter was unhappy following the game.
“It’s one thing to get beat, but it’s another thing to beat yourself,” he said. “We just squandered opportunity after opportunity with poor at-bats and bad baserunning. It’s extremely frustrating because this is basic baseball. We should have won these last two games.”
The Indians’ playoff chase hasn’t caught on with Cleveland fans, with only 12,607 in attendance Thursday night.
Both teams missed scoring chances in the ninth. Chris Perez worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top half by striking out Brett Wallace and L.J. Hoes.
Brantley walked with one out in the bottom of the ninth, but was thrown out trying to steal second. After Aviles walked, Jason Giambi batted for Drew Stubbs. The 42-year-old veteran lined a 1-1 pitch from Josh Zeid into the right field corner that was foul by a couple of feet. Giambi then popped out to end the inning.
A baserunning blunder by pinch-runner Jake Elmore ended Houston’s scoring threat in the 10th. Cody Clark led off with a double, but Elmore was picked off second by the catcher Gomes on the first pitch to Jonathan Villa. Cody Allen retired the next two hitters.
Ubaldo Jimenez allowed one run and struck out nine in seven innings. The right-hander has fanned 59 in his last 47 innings. Dallas Keuchel matched Jimenez, also allowing one run with seven strikeouts in seven innings.
The Indians were coming off a 5-2 road trip, sweeping four games in Chicago before losing two of three in Kansas City.
Jason Kipnis, snapping an 0-for-11 slump, gave Cleveland the lead with an RBI single in the first. Hoes tied the game with a sacrifice fly in the second.
Nick Swisher, who matched a career high with four hits, started the first-inning rally with a one-out double and scored when Kipnis, who was 4 for 21 on Cleveland’s trip, lined a hit to center.
Houston loaded the bases on three singles with nobody out in the second, but scored only once. After Jimenez struck out Wallace, Hoes’ fly ball to right was deep enough to score Marc Krauss.
NOTES: RHP Justin Masterson (strained left oblique) will throw a bullpen session Friday, his first time since being injured on Sept. 2. It’s still uncertain if he will return this season. … OF Trevor Crowe, the Indians’ No. 1 pick in 2005, batted third and played center field for the Astros. … Cleveland 3B coach Brad Mills managed the Astros from 2010-2012 before being fired late last season. … Indians RHP Zach McAllister (8-9) takes on Astros LHP Brett Oberholtzer (4-3) in the second game of the four-game series Friday.