CLEVELAND — All season long it's been too much something for the Houston Astros. One night, it's base-running blunders. The next, sloppy fielding.
No wonder they have lost 103 times.
The Astros committed two errors on one play in the fourth inning, allowing Cleveland to score the go-ahead run and the Astros lost their seventh straight, 2-1 on Friday night to the Indians in a game called by rain after 6 1-2 innings.
It doesn't seem to matter what conditions the Astros play in, the result seems to be the same.
"Errors are a part of the game," manager Bo Porter said after his team fell to 51-103. "We all know that, but at the same time you expect those plays to be made in a major league baseball game. If you look at the two runs they scored, both of them were unearned. If we made a couple of defensive plays, we arguably could be standing here with a 1-0 victory."
Instead, the Astros are four losses from matching the club record set last season.
With the heavy rain approaching, and the weather forecast looking bleak, the Indians took a 2-1 lead in the fourth thanks to the defensive miscues by the Astros on one play.
Ryan Raburn hit a one-out single off starter Brett Oberholtzer (4-4) and Asdrubal Cabrera walked. Michael Brantley then hit a grounder to first baseman Chris Carter, who tried to get a forceout at second but threw wildly into left field, allowing Raburn to score. Both runners advanced when a throw to the plate by left fielder Marc Krauss hit a sliding Raburn in the shoulder and the ball skipped to the backstop, a sequence more suited to a Little League field than a major league ballpark.
"That's baseball," Oberholtzer said. "I understand they're a playoff team and it's a playoff atmosphere and they put pressure on us to make some plays and we just came up short. It's a tough loss."
The game was delayed for 1 hour, 9 minutes before the umpires decided to call it. Shortly after Cleveland's win, Texas lost to Kansas City, allowing the Indians to jump the Rangers in the AL wild-card standings. It's the first time the Indians have been atop the ever-changing board since Aug. 4.
Zach McAllister (9-9) allowed just one run and got a key double play in the fifth as well as a diving catch by center fielder Michael Bourn in the first inning, a defensive gem that set the tone.
Cleveland also got two innings of hitless relief from Marc Rzepczynski and Bryan Shaw, who struck out three of four batters he faced for his first save.
Brandon Laird homered for the inept Astros, who had the bases loaded with one out in the fifth but leadoff hitter Jonathan Villar bounced into an inning-ending double play.
"We cannot get the big hit," Porter said. "It seems like it's avoiding us right now."
The win improved Cleveland's record to 48-18 against teams currently below .500 – the majors' best mark – and perhaps the biggest reason the Indians have a chance to make the playoffs for the first time since 2007.
With a very favorable schedule ahead, the Indians were hoping to capitalize on a four-game series against baseball's worst team to stay in the wild-card fray. They needed 11 innings on Thursday to finally beat Houston 2-1, and then got a major assist from the awful Astros – and the inclement weather – to win again.
"We knew going into the game that the weather was possibly going to be a factor," Porter said. "There's nothing you can do about Mother Nature."
McAllister got two quick outs in the second before Laird's fourth homer gave the Astros a 1-0 lead. Laird lined a 1-1 pitch into the left-field seats, his second homer in his last six at-bats.
But Laird helped give the run back to the Indians in the second, when with a runner at first, he couldn't handle Cabrera's grounder for an error. Brantley singled and Mike Aviles followed with a hard shot to Laird, who stopped it but dropped it, allowing Carlos Santana to score.
"It happens. I got caught in between with the ball right there," Laird said after the Astros lost their third straight one-run game. "It's frustrating. We've had long days. We'll bounce back tomorrow. They're battling for a wild card. That makes it exciting."
NOTES: Villar is in 0-for-13 slide. ... Astros 3B Matt Dominguez was out of the lineup after being hit on the left hand by closer Chris Perez on Thursday. Porter said Dominguez's hand was sore, but X-rays were negative. Dominguez is second on the team with 20 homers and 75 RBIs. "Dominguez is one tough guy," Porter said. "We'll give him a day and let him get treatment and hopefully tomorrow he'll be ready to go." ... There's a good chance the Astros will break the record for most losses in their inaugural AL season . After finishing the four-game series in Cleveland, they will play three games at Texas and then finish the season with a three-game series at home against the New York Yankees.