CLEVELAND—The Houston Astros’ longest losing streak of the season has them on the verge of making unwanted franchise history.
Indians left-hander Scott Kazmir tossed seven scoreless innings on Saturday night, paving the way for Cleveland’s 4-1 victory over the Astros.
Chris Carter’s ninth-inning homer off Indians reliever Joe Smith avoided a shutout for Houston, which has only scored 12 runs while losing eight straight games.
“Frankly put, we just haven’t swung the bat well lately, and conversely, we haven’t won many games,” Astros manager Bo Porter said. “You definitely have to tip your hat to Kazmir tonight, though. He had an explosive fastball and did a tremendous job with his breakaway stuff.”
The defeat dropped Houston to 51-104, putting it within three of tying the team record for losses in a season. The Astros went 55-107 last year after finishing 56-106 in 2011. They are the only 100-loss seasons in franchise history.
“Everyone here is still playing hard and nobody has given up,” Carter said. “That’s all you can ask for at this point of the season.”
After completing their four-game with the Indians on Sunday, the Astros go to Texas for three games against the Rangers before finishing the season with a three-game series against the New York Yankees at home.
Houston right-hander Paul Clemens (4-6) made his fourth major league start, but only lasted 4 2-3 innings. The rookie allowed four runs on eight hits, including a two-run homer to Michael Brantley in the first.
Clemens gave up three runs in the opening inning, then one more in the fourth, keeping him winless since being recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City and placed in the rotation on Aug. 27.
“Anytime you give up a three-spot in the first, it’s going to make for a long night and force you to battle the rest of the way,” said Clemens, who is 0-2 with a 4.22 ERA as a starter. “It was a stressful inning, but I felt like I settled down after that.”
Carter went 3 for 4, while shortstop Jonathan Villar and right fielder L.J. Hoes accounted for the Astros’ other two hits.
Carter, who has a team-high 28 home runs, is batting .280 with 18 homers and 54 RBIs on the road. At Minute Maid Park, he has a .167 average with 10 homers and 24 RBIs.
“It’s just happened that way this year, there is no rhyme or reason for it,” said Carter, whose two-out homer prevented Houston from being blanked for the 14th time. “I’m sure next season, it won’t turn out anything like this, but it is kind of different.”
Porter, in his first season as manager, is already looking forward to watching Carter in 2014.
“C.C. is one of those guys who remind you why you put him in the lineup every night,” he said. “He’s really swinging the bat well again.”
The Astros struck out 10 times against Kazmir (9-9), who was lifted after allowing Hoes’ leadoff double in the eighth. The only Houston batter to advance beyond second base against Kazmir, Cody Allen or Smith was Carter on his blast into the trees in straightaway center field.
Cleveland remained one-half game ahead of Texas and in possession of the final American League wild-card spot. Tampa Bay is one-half game in front of the Indians, who have eight games to play.
“As close as we are, we can almost taste it,” Kazmir said. “You want to go out and give it everything you’ve got.”
Right-hander Lucas Harrell pitched the final 3 1-3 innings for Houston, scattering two hits and two walks.
“I came in and just tried to get guys out,” Harrell said.
NOTES: Astros 3B Matt Dominguez (left hand) went 0 for 4 in his return to the lineup after sitting out one game. He was struck on the left hand Thursday by a pitch from Indians RHP Chris Perez. “Matt said it’s still a little sore, but he’s a pretty tough guy,” Porter said. ... Villar snapped an 0-for-13 slump by leading off the game with a single. ... Indians OF Michael Bourn was traded by Houston to Atlanta on July 31, 2011. The Astros received LHP Brett Oberholtzer and Clemens, who started their last two games. ... Porter said OF J.D. Martinez will play winter ball, but no decision has been made on the rest of his roster. ... Houston has not won a game in Cleveland since July 16, 2000. ... Astros LHP Erik Bedard (4-11) takes on Indians RHP Corey Kluber (9-5) in the series finale Sunday.