HOUSTON -- Danny Valencia blasted his second home run of the game, a two-run shot into the Crawford Boxes off Houston reliever Pat Neshek in the eighth inning, to complete the Athletics' 4-3 come-from-behind victory on Friday and send the Astros to their fifth straight loss.
Valencia's first homer came just after Josh Reddick took Astros starter Mike Fiers deep in the fourth inning, with the homers cutting the A's deficit to one run. Sam Fuld's amazing grab in center field the inning prior kept the deficit to a minimum and was a catalyst for A's pitchers, who held the Astros to just two baserunners after Fuld robbed Carlos Correa of a run-scoring hit.
"We weren't down by much, so we knew we were always in the game," Valencia said. "At that point it was a three-run game ... and, you know, we have guys on this team that can hit the ball out of the park."
The two home runs aside, Fiers turned in a gritty start, allowing just five hits and striking out six over six innings. Chris Carter put a mammoth homer into the Crawford Boxes in the second and Jose Altuve hustled to score on a sacrifice fly to short right field in the third, but the Astros couldn't hold a three-run cushion.
"We have found a lot of different ways to just miss or have a couple tough losses lately," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "That game was ours to win, and we didn't do enough to take it."
With the loss, Houston remains in possession of the second American League Wild Card berth, losing only a half-game after the contest between the Twins and Angels was postponed by rain. The Astros also remain 2 1/2 games behind the Rangers in the division after the Rangers lost to the Mariners, 3-1.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Flying Fuld: With the Astros looking to separate themselves in the third, Fuld flew into the air and went full extension to rob a run-scoring extra-base hit from Correa with George Springer and Altuve on board and no outs. Fuld tracked Correa's laser, which left the bat at 106 mph according to Statcast™, and dove just near the Astros' bullpen to make the catch and limit the damage to just one run in the inning.
"Felt like I had a good beat on it," Fuld said. "A lot of those times, you just feel confident you have a chance at it and you just don't know it until it gets there. Felt like I had a good read on it, and I at least had a chance." More >
Fier it up: Fiers bounced back from that pair of A's home runs to retire the next eight batters before wiggling out of a two-out jam in the sixth inning. He also gave the Astros a quality start for the fifth time in eight outings despite taking a rocket comebacker off his hip during the third inning.
"It stung a little bit, but it hit me in a good spot, and I was able to keep going," Fiers said. "It actually might have focused me more, made me pitch a little better."
Carter warming up: Astros manager A.J. Hinch said before the game that Houston needs the fickle Carter to get on a hot streak, and in the second inning, Carter lofted a mammoth solo home run that flew 411 feet off his bat at 103 mph, per Statcast™. It was only Carter's second homer since Aug. 1; he's now recorded a hit in four straight games.
Danny digs the Astros: Valencia is now hitting .452 with four homers and 11 RBIs in 10 games against Houston this season. His two dingers on Friday gave him 16 -- a new career high -- and nine have come since he's joined the A's.
"Really?" Valencia asked. "Maybe fortunate for me to get hitter's counts; maybe I just see the ball better. The guys out there are really good. Fiers pitched a great game today and more often than not, Neshek is going to get me out." More >
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Carter's homer was the Astros' 200th of the season. It's just the third time Houston has reached that milestone in franchise history, after 2000 and 2001.
WHAT'S NEXT A's: Ace Sonny Gray will look to rebound from his worst outing of the season -- a three-inning start against the White Sox on Sept. 14 in which he surrendered seven runs on eight hits -- when he takes the ball for the second game of the series on Saturday at 4:10 p.m. PT. Gray faced the Astros just 11 days ago, turning in seven shutout innings in a 4-0 victory at the Coliseum.
Astros: It'll be lefty Scott Kazmir on the mound, making his second start against his former team in the month of September. Kazmir is just 2-5 since coming over from Oakland in a July trade, but he's been solid in the majority of starts for the Astros, only lacking run support. The A's got to him on Sept. 8 in Oakland, cranking out seven hits -- two of them home runs -- to plate four.