TOM WITHERS, AP Sports Writer
Corey Kluber lost for the first time since July 3 after Marwin Gonzalez connected for a three-run homer off Cleveland’s ace in the second inning, leading the Houston Astros over the Indians 4-3 on Tuesday night.
Kluber (15-9) had won his previous seven decisions, a span during which he dominated the way he did while winning the Cy Young Award in 2014. But the right-hander had a bad sequence of six batters against the Astros, who have won the first two of four games between the playoff contenders.
Gonzalez added two doubles for Houston, a major league-best 13-4 since Aug. 19.
Reliever James Hoyt (1-0) struck out two in 1 1/3 innings for his first major league win. The 29-year-old rookie replaced Brad Peacock, who was called up to replace an injured Dallas Keuchel and made his first start since April 14, 2015.
Carlos Santana homered in the eighth off Luke Gregerson to pull Cleveland within 4-2. The Indians scored an unearned run in the ninth and got the tying run to second before Ken Giles, Houston’s fifth reliever, recorded his ninth save.
The Indians, who have led the AL Central for 95 consecutive days, lost for just the second time in eight games.
Kluber has been a big reason why the Indians have stayed on top of their division. The unflappable 30-year-old had not lost in over two months, and whenever his team needed a big outing, Kluber delivered. He was 7-0 with a 1.94 ERA in 11 starts since losing to Toronto in July.
An uncharacteristic run hurt Kluber in the second.
After getting two outs, he walked Evan Gattis and Colby Rasmus before quickly getting ahead 0-2 on Gonzalez. Kluber tried to sneak a curveball past Houston’s first baseman, but he left it over the plate and Gonzalez drove it into the seats in right for his 12th homer to put the Astros up 3-0.
The Indians, who couldn’t score on Peacock in the first despite opening with a single and double, got a run back in the second on Tyler Naquin’s RBI groundout.
Houston went ahead 4-1 in the third on Alex Bregman’s RBI triple single off Kluber, who settled in and retired 15 of 17 before leaving after seven. He finished with nine strikeouts.
Cleveland missed its chance to do early damage on Peacock, who worked out of the initial jam and gave the Astros all they could ask for in 3 2/3 innings.
An injury to Keuchel prevented the game from being a matchup of former Cy Young winners. The left-hander was sent back to Houston with shoulder inflammation, a significant setback to the club’s wild-card chances.
Astros: Manager A.J. Hinch said there was nothing new to report on Keuchel, who is expected to speak with the media Friday when the Astros begin a three-game series with the Cubs.
Indians: C Yan Gomes (separated shoulder) is scheduled to be catching minor league games on his rehab assignment this weekend. Gomes, who has been on the disabled list since July 18, threw to bases Tuesday and will DH on Wednesday for Triple-A Columbus. He is eligible to be activated on Sept 16.
Astros: RHP Doug Fister looks to bounce back after being tagged for seven runs and 10 hits in 3 2/3 innings against Texas on Sept. 2.
Indians: RHP Carlos Carrasco, who struck out 11 and pitched 7 1/3 shutout innings in his last outing, starts for the fifth time in his career against Houston. Carrasco is 2-1 with a 2.05 ERA against the Astros.