Houston, TX – If this is how Bruce Chen pitches on three days' rest, he should probably do it more often.
Chen (6-6), coming off his shortest start in seven years, allowed only a run in 5 2/3 innings to help the Kansas City Royals win another interleague series with a 2-1 victory over the Houston Astros.
"I felt good," Chen said. "I felt like I was pounding the strike zone, my catcher called a great game."
The rubber match of this series wasn't without drama, however, as Houston threatened in the ninth.
With Jonathan Broxton on the mound for Kansas City, Chris Snyder singled to left to begin a rally. Two batters later, Jose Altuve moved Snyder to third with a one-out base hit.
Brian Bixler had a chance to tie the game in several different ways, but Broxton was able to strike him out before Jordan Schafer flied out to squander the opportunity.
It was Broxton's 18th save and the Royals' seventh win in nine games. Kansas City mustered only four hits in the game, a season-low for a win.
J.D. Martinez was the only player in the game with two hits for the Astros, who struck out 14 times and have lost five of six. Jordan Lyles (1-4) pitched well enough to win, allowing two runs and three hits in seven innings, but was dealt the hard-luck defeat.
Chen and Lyles matched zeroes until the fifth, when Kansas City finally rallied for the game's first run.
Mike Moustakas began the inning with his 16th double of the season and moved to third on a groundout. With the infield in, Brayan Pena sent a chopper that barely eluded Lyles on the mound. Due to the speed of the ball, shortstop Jed Lowrie had no chance to prevent Moustakas from scoring.
A Lowrie error in the next inning helped the Royals double their lead.
Alex Gordon tripled with one out in the inning, and Houston again moved their infield to the grass. Betancourt sent a grounder toward Lowrie, who let the ball go through his legs for an easy run and 2-0 lead.
It proved costly after Lowrie's RBI single in the home half, leaving the Astros down by one.
Situational hitting doomed Houston down the stretch, when Kansas City's Greg Holland struck out two in a row to end a two-on, one-out threat in the eighth. The Astros' best chance to tie the game came in the ninth, but Broxton was able to get out of trouble again.
"You've got to get big hits in situations where you have the opportunity, and we didn't do that today," Lowrie said.
Astros centerfield Justin Maxwell left the game with a sprained ankle...Gordon's triple was his first of the season...The Royals are 28-22 since their horrific 12-game losing streak in April.