OAKLAND, Calif. -- Josh Donaldson insisted he was just trying to extend the inning. Instead, he shortened the game.
Facing a two-strike count and focused on merely putting the ball in play, the Oakland third baseman sliced a high-flying triple down the right-field line just out of the reach of Rick Ankiel's dive, scoring Josh Reddick from first with two outs in the eighth inning and delivering the A's a 4-3 victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.
Carlos Pena belted a two-out solo home run in the top of the eighth to draw Houston even off A's reliever Sean Doolittle (1-0), but Oakland took advantage of a two-out walk by the Astros' third pitcher, Rhiner Cruz (0-1), to set up Donaldson's heroics and record a fifth consecutive win over the first-year American League West club this season.
"I was trying to get a pitch I could drive early in the count," said Donaldson, figuring he needed an extra-base hit to score Reddick from first. "Once I got two strikes, I just wanted to focus on going the other way (to right field)."
Donaldson watched in amazement as the ball, slicing toward foul territory, managed to stay fair by inches. It landed about that same distance away from the glove of Ankiel, who was stationed in the right-center alley to prevent, coincidentally, extra bases.
"I wasn't sure it was going to stay fair," Donaldson said of the A's third triple of the night, which tied a franchise single-game record. "I was very fortunate."
Grant Balfour recorded his second save of the season with a 1-2-3 ninth, striking out two of the three men he faced.
Neither starting pitcher -- the A's A.J. Griffin or Astros' Brad Peacock -- factored in the decision. Griffin left with a 3-2 lead after six innings -- fortunate to have survived a two-run Astros third inning. Pena's homer off Doolittle, a lefty-on-lefty blast that was the slugger's first of the season, erased what could have been the young right-hander's third consecutive win.
"You know that one swing has the potential to tie the ballgame," Pena said of his opposite-field shot to left. "But you're not trying to hit a home run. Just put a good swing on the ball and you're going to give yourself the best chance."
Pena, a former A's first baseman, was well aware the ball doesn't travel well at night at O.co Coliseum.
"I knew I hit it well," he assured. "I was very pleased to see it go out of the ballpark."
Eric Sogard had a single, double and triple in three at-bats, and Coco Crisp had Oakland's other triple.
While Griffin was a bit unlucky not to get the win, he also had to feel equally fortunate the game didn't get well away from him in the third inning.
In a scoreless game, No. 9 hitter Marwin Gonzalez got Houston's first hit of the night, a line double to the fence in right-center field. He took third on Jose Altuve's single to right, and Justin Maxwell's single to left plated Gonzalez with the night's first run.
The Astros weren't done there. After Altuve and Maxwell advanced a base on Jason Castro's long fly to left, Chris Carter made it 2-0 with a liner in front of the A's Chris Young in center field.
A Pena walk, his second of the night, loaded the bases with still just one out. But J.D. Martinez, who failed with two on and none out in the previous inning, struck out, and Ankiel's bid for a game-breaking extra-base hit was nabbed by a diving A's first baseman Shane Peterson to keep it a two-run game.
Peterson, called up earlier in the day from Triple-A Sacramento, received a congratulatory embrace from Griffin in the dugout.
"Every big-league debut, you don't dream that you're not going to get any hits. You dream about home runs, grand slams," Peterson said after going 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. "I'm not sure I'll remember my big-league debut. But at least we won."
Peterson's spectacular stab, and other wasted Astros opportunities, had Houston manager Bo Porter scratching his head after his team's fourth consecutive defeat.
"The name of the game is break point and they did a better job of it than we did," he said. "We very well could have won that game. We had guys on base. We just didn't get the big hits."
NOTES: The last time the A's had three triples in a game was Aug. 3, 2002, against Detroit. ... The A's are 11-4, best in the American League. . . . The Astros have hit 13 home runs in their 14 games. . . . The Astros are 1-10 all-time against the A's. ... Peacock struck out seven in 4 1/3 innings, nearly matching the eight he had fanned in his first two starts. ... A's first baseman Brandon Moss added to his family Wednesday when his wife gave birth to a boy, Brodie Dylan. Moss was placed on the paternity list, which allows the A's to replace him on the 25-man roster for up to three games. ... Such is the shaky status of the A's outfield that the club chose to call up an outfielder, Peterson, from Triple-A Sacramento to take Moss' spot on the roster. Peterson, who made only one infield appearance in 11 games in Sacramento, got the start at first base and batted eighth. ... The A's shuffled their outfield shortly before game time, electing to take Crisp out of center field and move him to DH as he continues to rehab a strained left groin. Young moved from left field to center to take Crisp's place, with Smith grabbing a glove and starting in left after he's originally been tabbed as the DH.