HOUSTON -- One night after they tied it with a run in the ninth before eventually winning in 14 innings, the Detroit Tigers needed only nine innings for their come-from-behind 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros on Friday at Minute Maid Park.
Houston's Jose Veras issued a leadoff walk to Detroit's Don Kelly in the ninth and, one out later, Alex Avila hit a two-run homer to right-center field to put the Tigers ahead for good.
"I was swinging the bat pretty good and then I had a bad week," Avila said. "Things can change pretty quickly."
The Astros had gone ahead 3-2 in the seventh. Matt Dominguez led off the inning with a double to left. Rick Ankiel put runners at the corners with a line drive up the middle, forcing Tigers right-hander Doug Fister to duck for cover.
Marwin Gonzalez followed with a chopper to the right side and second baseman Omar Infante let the ball go off his glove as he tried to make a play while ranging to his left. Gonzalez reached second and Dominguez scored on the error. Gonzalez got an RBI on the play but wasn't credited with a hit.
Robbie Grossman tied the score with an RBI single through the left side. Then Jose Altuve made it 3-2 with an RBI single up the middle, catching a break when the ball took a bounce off the second base bag to ruin any chance shortstop Jhonny Peralta had of getting an out after he fielded it.
"This is the defending American League champion," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "One play here and one play there and both of these nights we're going home victorious and 2-0 against the American League champion. Unfortunately, that didn't happen. They made plays.
"But it's like I just told our group in the room in there: 'Don't hang your head.' We've played good baseball. We've had some misfortunate along the way. But at the same way we've had misfortune, the tide's going to change and a lot of these plays are going to start to go our way and we're going to hit our stretch of winning these types of ballgames."
Houston starter Bud Norris held the Tigers to five hits and two runs with three walks and seven strikeouts in seven strong innings. Fister gave up nine hits and three runs (two earned) with one walk and four strikeouts in six innings plus five batters in the seventh.
"We came out on the short end of the stick, but these guys fought hard for nine innings," Norris said. "That's what we expect out of ourselves. It's a tough one to lose for sure, but I know that we played hard. That's a positive for us. We got to go back out there and do it again tomorrow."
After Avila's two-run blast, the Tigers sent in Jose Valverde to close the game in the bottom of the ninth. Robbie Grossman walked with one out and moved to second on Altuve's groundout to second, but Jason Castro flied out to left to end it.
"Hopefully, that will get him going, get some confidence going," Pirates manager Jim Leyland said of Avila. "That was a big one."
NOTES: Astros DH Carlos Pena hasn't bunted much in his career, but he took advantage of the Tigers' shift to lead off the sixth with a bunt single toward third. ... Tigers pitchers entered the game with an American League-best 281 strikeouts. ... Astros catcher Jason Castro got a rare start as designated hitter one night after catching all 14 innings. ... Left-hander Dallas Keuchel was unavailable for the Astros one night after throwing 4 1/3 innings of relief. ... Astros manager Bo Porter admitted that he jokingly told Cabrera that he might be issued 14 walks during the four-game series.