Valbuena's three-run HR in ninth sends Astros past A's

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[July 09, 2016]  HOUSTON -- With two runners on base and his club trailing by two runs, Houston Astros manager A.J. Hinch was considering the right strategic play for the moment when Luis Valbuena stepped to the plate.

Valbuena quickly eliminated the need for Hinch to consider his options any longer.

Valbuena belted a first-pitch, three-run, walk-off home run to right field to cap a wild ninth inning and lift the Houston Astros to a 10-9 victory over the Oakland Athletics on Friday night at Minute Maid Park.

The third baseman reached the upper deck for the third time in four games, his 12th home run coming against Athletics closer Ryan Madson (3-3).

After Jose Altuve produced a one-out single and Carlos Correa reached on a wild pitch after striking out, Hinch pondered how to put Valbuena in the most advantageous position to at least square the game with a base hit.

Instead, the Astros (47-40) were walk-off winners one pitch later.

"Obviously Louie up to bat in a good spot he's going to make good decisions and swing at good pitches," Hinch said. "I never expect the home run but I expected a good at-bat and I expected barrel contact because the way Louie has been swinging the bat."

The Athletics (37-50) mounted a stunning rally of their own in the top of the ninth, with Khris Davis drilling a two-run double off Michael Feliz (6-1), the Athletics' fourth extra-base hit in the inning, for an 8-7 lead.

The Athletics initiated their comeback against Astros closer Will Harris, who had made 37 appearances without surrendering an extra-base hit this season.

That streak ended when Billy Butler opened the ninth with a double and completely collapsed after Yonder Alonso followed with a two-run homer and Jed Lowrie added a one-out double.

Davis followed his double to deep left-center field and scored on the ensuing at-bat when Josh Reddick added an RBI single to right field.

"Any time they are taking their closer out of the game with one out, it means we put good at-bats together," Athletics manager Bob Melvin said. Then (Davis) gets something he can handle, and all of a sudden we have the lead."

The Astros lead 7-4 entering the ninth behind Correa, who finished 2-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs, and their four-run fifth. They shook off a sluggish start against former Astros farmhand Daniel Mengden with a methodical approach while erasing a 3-0 deficit.

Altuve and Marwin Gonzalez both went 2-for-5 with an RBI, with Altuve also scoring twice. Oakland tagged Astros starter Collin McHugh for three runs in the fourth, including three successive hits to open the inning.

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Astros third baseman Luis Valbuena (18) beats the throw to Oakland Athletics first baseman Yonder Alonso (17) in the eighth inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas B. Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Vogt scored Danny Valencia with his triple to center field and scored himself when Butler followed with an RBI single. Marcus Semien later added his 19th home run for a 3-0 lead, but McHugh recovered to pitch into the seventh inning, allowing just two more hits before giving way to right-hander Ken Giles with two on and no outs.

Giles and Luke Gregerson followed with one perfect inning each, but the Athletics rallied against Harris only for Houston to do the same against Madson.

"Nobody put their heads down," said Valbuena, who finished 3-for-5 with four RBIs. "Everybody tried to do something in every at-bat. You see everybody tried to get on base and you see what happened."

Correa homered in the fourth to plate Altuve and cut the deficit to 3-2. The Astros strung together four consecutive run-scoring at-bats in the fifth to chase Mengden and surge ahead. But Oakland clawed back and managed a big inning of its own only to have victory snatched away.

"It's tough. I don't know," said Alonso, whose ninth-inning home run was his fourth of the season. "It's just part of the game. It happened pretty quick. It's just tough, real tough."

NOTES: Astros LF Colby Rasmus was not in the starting lineup due to an ear infection. It was not unusual for the left-handed-hitting Rasmus to sit against Athletics LHP Rich Hill in the series opener, but Rasmus was unable to go against RHP Daniel Mengden on Friday. Rasmus is batting .118 with one home run and three RBIs in six games this month after closing June with four multi-hit games in his last five starts. ... Athletics CF Coco Crisp was suspended one game for tossing his bat at plate umpire D.J. Reyburn following his ejection on Thursday night. Crisp was protesting balls and strikes with his actions, with his bat striking Reyburn in the lower extremities. Crisp served his suspension on Friday. ... Astros RF George Springer finished second to Blue Jays OF Michael Saunders on the American League Final Vote Ballot for a roster spot in the All-Star Game.

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