Tribe rely on Jimenez in opener against Astros

Red-hot right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez aims for a fourth straight victory on Thursday night when the playoff-pursuing Cleveland Indians host the hapless Houston Astros to open a four-game series at Progressive Field.

The Indians enter the series just a half-game off the pace of the leaders in the chase for the American League's second wild card position, the Texas Rangers.

The Rangers are 82-69 to the Indians 82-70. Tampa holds the top wild card spot and is 1 1/2 games in front of the Tribe.

Baltimore is a half-game behind the Indians and both Kansas City and the New York Yankees are 2 1/2 behind the Rangers.

Jimenez fell to .500 on the season after the second of two straight losses - a 3-1 defeat at Atlanta - on Aug. 29.

He's been perfect in September, however, stringing together defeats of Baltimore, Kansas City and the Chicago White Sox while allowing just two runs on 19 hits in 21 1/3 innings.

The Indians are 5-5 in his last 10 starts, but have won four of the last six while outscoring foes, 25-16.

Jimenez got a no-decision in his lone start against the Astros after giving up four runs and four hits in five innings.

Houston goes with lefty Dallas Keuchel, who ended a seven-appearance drought in his last outing.

Keuchel had fallen from 5-5 on the season to 5-9 between Aug. 2 and Sept. 6 while watching his earned run average tick upward from 4.63 to 4.99.

He picked up win No. 6 on Sept. 13 against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who hit him hard - 10 hits and six runs in 5 2/3 innings - but nonetheless dropped a 9-7 verdict.

In one career relief outing against the Indians, Keuchel was shelled for seven hits and seven runs in 2 2/3 innings.

On Thursday in Houston, Billy Hamilton scored the go-ahead run in the 13th inning to cap a memorable first career start in the Cincinnati Reds' 6-5 victory over the Astros.

Reds closer Aroldis Chapman gave up a run in the 13th on Trevor Crowe's groundout, and needed to retire Chris Carter with two on to close out his 37th save of the season.

In Kansas City, the Royals rebounded from a disappointing setback to post a 7-2 win over the Indians in the rubber match of a critical three-game set at Kauffman Stadium.

The Indians won two of three from the Astros when the teams played in Houston in April. Houston entered the week with an 11-10 lead in the all-time series.