CLEVELAND — On paper, the matchup of starting pitchers was one-sided.
Marwin Gonzalez tilted it in Houston’s favor with one swing.
Gonzalez connected for a three-run homer against Corey Kluber in the second inning and the Astros handed Cleveland’s ace his first loss since July 3 by beating the Indians 4-3 on Tuesday night.
After Kluber uncharacteristically walked two batters with two outs in the second, Gonzalez drove a belt-high curveball over the right-field fence to make it 3-0 and the Astros held off a late rally to improve to 13-4 since Aug. 19 and stay within two games in the wild-card race.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play against one of the best pitchers in the game,” said Gonzalez, who added two doubles. “But I put a good swing on it.”
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.
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 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.
“We had to piece it together, but it was a whole team win,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “Peacock turned in a nice performance, then Hoyt came in and got four big outs. Our pen did a great job against a very good lineup that is very balanced.”
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 atypical 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 the first baseman, but he left it over the plate and Gonzalez belted his 12th homer.
“You have to take advantage of any and all opportunities against him,” Hinch said of Kluber. “Marwin had a real good night with the home run, but that inning really got going with the two-out walks. Kluber really settled in after that, so it was important we got to him early.”
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.
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David Paulino — one of the Astros’ top prospects — was recalled from Triple-A Fresno and will make his big league debut Thursday. The 6-foot-7 right-hander went 5-4 with a 2.00 ERA in 20 minor league appearances this year.
“David’s upside is real and we’re excited about it,” Hinch said. “We want to see how his stuff plays at this level.”
Astros: Hinch said there was nothing new to report on Keuchel, who returned to Houston on Monday because of shoulder inflammation. He’s expected to speak with the media Friday when the Astros begin a three-game series with the Cubs.
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.