HOUSTON -- Brett Myers watched the Royals poke one hit after another into the outfield and couldn't believe his eyes. Suddenly, a seven-run lead was down to just two in the ninth inning, the bases were loaded and tensions on the rise.
Astros manager Brad Mills took the undesirable move of pulling his closer -- who came into the game in a non-save situation -- and brought in left-hander Xavier Cedeno to try to finish the job and calm a few shattered nerves.
Mills, Myers and everybody else at Minute Maid Park breathed a sigh of relief when Cedeno got Mike Moustakas to pop out to first base to strand the bases loaded and secure a 9-7 win over the Royals on Monday night that snapped a three-game losing streak.
"That's happens sometimes," said Myers, who gave up eight singles and five runs in two-thirds of an inning. "Ain't nothing I can do about it now. Give me the ball tomorrow and I'll be ready to go."
The save was the first in Cedeno's career, and it made sure J.A. Happ was credited with a win after his promising showing. Happ (5-7) rebounded from perhaps the worst start of his career last week in San Francisco and snapped his personal four-game losing streak by holding the Royals to four hits and two runs in six innings.
"The first inning he threw 27 pitches and he was able to rebound right away and get back in and start making some pitches, which he did," Mills said. "He started throwing more strikes and making pitches a little bit better. We had been using the bullpen quite a lot the last few days, so it was huge to see him go as far as he did."
The Astros scored five runs in the eighth to open up a 9-2 lead. Included in the frame were homers by Justin Maxwell and Brian Bogusevic, and a two-run double by Brian Bixler, who homered in the first inning to give him a career-high three RBIs.
While it looked like the Astros were simply adding some style points, the extra runs proved to be crucial.
"You keep grinding and it paid off today," Bixler said. "It just kind of shows that at this level, guys don't give in. Things happen and you put a bat on the ball and that's the way it bounced today. I'm glad we were able to do in the eighth and hold onto it for J.A. Happ."
Myers, who's been one of the most reliable closers in the Major Leagues this year, threw 40 pitches in the ninth, forcing Mills to scurry to get Cedeno ready as the Royals crept closer. After Jeff Francoeur singled to load the bases and put the tying run on second, Mills had enough.
"To Brett's defense, I know that's a tough, tough place to come in sometimes," Francoeur said. "You're down 4-2, 5-2 getting yourself jacked up, and then it's 9-2. I think for him, before he realized, it just kind of unraveled."
Taking Myers out of the game was a last resort for Mills, but he couldn't ignore the pitch count. Myers was working for only the second time in eight games, prompting Mills to absorb the blame for him not being as sharp as he could have been.
"In his defense, he's been great all year and he's going to continue to be great, and it was just a situation he hadn't been out there in a while," Mills said. "That's my fault."
Mills pulled Myers aside after the game and asked him if his lack of use contributed to his struggles in the ninth.
"He asked me if it's because I hadn't pitched in a while, and I said, 'No,'" Myers said. "I went four days [off] before and not pitched and have been sharp. I just felt like I was little too strong tonight. I wasn't really locating the breaking stuff too good, and they really didn't hit anything extremely hard; they just put in the right spot."
The Astros scored twice in the first inning, tying the score when Bixler walloped his first career homer. Maxwell (2-for-3) followed with a walk and scored all the way from first base on a throwing error by Royals starter Jonathan Sanchez to put Houston ahead, 2-1. The Astros scored twice in the fourth to take a 4-1 lead on an RBI single by Chris Snyder and a bases-loaded walk by Maxwell.
Bogusevic entered the game as a defensive replacement in the seventh inning and wound up hitting a homer, making a sliding catch in the outfield to end the eighth and throwing out a runner at second base to complete a double play in the seventh.
It was a little redemption for Bogusevic, whose lackadaisical throw to the infield in Sunday's loss to the Rangers allowed Elvis Andrus to score all the way from first on a single.
"Yesterday wasn't a very good day," Bogusevic said. "That's baseball. You come back the next day and try to make up for it. Having a game everyday helps to create a short memory."