HOUSTON -- At some point the Houston Astros were bound to earn a win over the Oakland Athletics. However, the manner in which they did Tuesday night was more improbable than anyone could have imagined.
The Astros rallied for three runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to claim their third walk-off win of the season, a 5-4 victory at Minute Maid Park that snapped a 12-game losing skid vs. the Athletics.
Houston (34-65) stunned Oakland closer Grant Balfour (0-2), who had converted all 26 of his save opportunities this season and owned a streak of 44 consecutive saves dating to April 29, 2012.
"It's a big win because, one, we haven't beaten those guys all year," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "It's one of those things where you say to yourself, 'OK, sooner or later we've got to beat these guys.' And for it to happen in the fashion in which it happened, down 4-2 in the ninth, and to get three runs and come back and win, it's definitely something we can build on from a momentum standpoint."
Balfour surrendered a leadoff infield single to Justin Maxwell, who then took second when Balfour uncorked an errant throw to first base. Matt Dominguez followed with his 12th home run of the season and first since June 25, a two-run blast to center field that tied the game at 4.
Two batters later, Jonathan Villar stroked a one-out double to left field and, after Jose Altuve walked, Villar scored from second base on a throwing error by catcher Derek Norris, whose attempt to erase Altuve at first base squirted past Brandon Moss and into shallow right field.
"I knew he hadn't blown one this year. I didn't know it went back to 44 (saves)," Dominguez said of Balfour and his streak. "He's pretty lights-out, so that was a big win for us and good to come back against a pitcher like that. Hopefully it will give us momentum."
Oakland was the first to rally against the Astros' bullpen when Moss blasted his 17th home run with two outs and two strikes in the eighth against right-hander Jose Cisnero, spoiling a fabulous home debut for Astros rookie right-hander Jarred Cosart. Moss turned on a 95 mph fastball and deposited the pitch in the upper deck in right field.
On Monday, the Athletics improved to 10-0 against the Astros this season and 15-1 overall after scoring three runs against three Astros relievers. That Balfour failed to extend that streak was shocking.
"It sucks. I feel like the whole inning could have been totally different had I not put myself in that situation," Balfour said. "It wasn't what I wanted to be tonight."
Cosart, who was brilliant at Tampa Bay 11 days ago, labored early in his home debut: He needed 30 pitches to complete the first inning after the Athletics sent six batters to the plate.
Moss was the last of four consecutive batters to reach base in the first inning, doing so on a fielding error by Dominguez at third base that allowed shortstop Jed Lowrie to score from second for a 1-0 lead.
The damage might have been worse had John Jaso not been erased scurrying back to third after Josh Donaldson singled to left. Cosart surrendered a run during a protracted double play in the third but for the most part was sharp and resilient, allowing two runs (one earned) on seven hits and three walks with four strikeouts over seven innings.
The Astros erased one-run deficits with single runs in the first and fifth, the latter coming by way of a two-base throwing error from Athletics right-hander Jarrod Parker and subsequent consecutive sacrifices from Villar and Altuve. That error set an ominous tone.
"We've been a bit sloppy lately, and tonight it definitely cost us," Athletics manager Bob Melvin said. "We've already addressed it. It's just a period where we're not playing crisp baseball."
NOTES: Athletics LHP Brett Anderson is scheduled for a second bullpen session this week on Wednesday and, barring complications, is nearing a rehabilitation assignment. Anderson did not experience any discomfort after his Monday throwing session. He has been on the disabled list since May 1 with a sprained right ankle and missed his 72nd game on Tuesday. ... Cosart procured tickets for 75 friends and family for his home debut on Tuesday. Cosart is a 2008 graduate of Clear Creek High School in League City, roughly 30 miles from Minute Maid Park.