HOUSTON -- Considering all of the twists and turns that unfolded over the opening eight innings Sunday, it seemed only fitting that one final dramatic sequence of events was in store for the bottom of the ninth.
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve drilled the first pitch he saw from Tigers right-hander Alex Wilson into center field, delivering the Houston Astros a 6-5 walk-off victory over the Detroit Tigers and a win in the rubber match of this three-game series at Minute Maid Park.
The Astros (64-54) extended their stretch of dominant play at home -- Houston is 9-0-1 over its last 10 series at Minute Maid Park -- with an unexpected two-out explosion. Right fielder Jake Marisnick, mired in a 1-for-19 skid, laced a triple to center field off Tigers left-hander Tom Gorzelanny (1-2) just prior to Detroit (56-61) executing a pitching change that set the stage for Altuve to deliver against Wilson.
"In that situation, you try to hit one ball hard," said Altuve, who finished 3-for-5 with a run scored. "It doesn't matter if it's a fly ball or a ground ball."
Said Wilson of the plan against Altuve: "Yeah, pitch him careful but you've still got to attack. You want to get people out. You don't want to get behind. The goal was to get him out. The next guy on deck was a left-hander. The matchup right there is for me vs. Altuve. You can be careful but at the same time you still have to work within the zone."
The Tigers trailed 5-2 before starting their comeback in the seventh when first baseman Miguel Cabrera (2-for-3 with two walks and three RBIs) ripped his 16th home run the opposite way to right field off right-hander Chad Qualls, driving home center fielder Anthony Gose and cutting the deficit to one run. Detroit pulled even an inning later, netting consecutive hits from corner outfielders J.D. Martinez and Tyler Collins, with Collins' single plating Martinez after the right fielder reached second base on throwing error by third baseman Marwin Gonzalez.
Astros right-hander Will Harris (5-2) surrendered the tying run in the eighth but he also struck out five batters over two innings of relief work.
"It's the same thing as every other day, Harris said. "I've been called on to get more than just three outs a bunch of times this year. I was prepared for that. Once I gave up the run in the eighth I knew more than likely to save the bullpen I'll go back out there for the ninth. It wasn't anything out of the ordinary I don't think."
The Astros rallied on behalf of right-hander Mike Fiers with four runs in the second inning, including the first of two home runs by left fielder Colby Rasmus off Tigers left-hander Matt Boyd. But in the third, Fiers walked shortstop Jose Iglesias and Cabrera before issuing three consecutive balls to designated hitter Victor Martinez. One pitch from being pulled, he escaped that pickle by getting Martinez to ground out to first base, striking out J.D. Martinez on three pitches, and inducing an inning-ending grounder off the bat of Collins to preserve his lead.
Fiers retired nine consecutive batters before departing with one out and runners on the corners in the sixth. Astros right-hander Josh Fields stranded both inherited runners, but the Tigers later rallied against Qualls and Harris, shifting the pressure to the Astros to match their stubborn insistence. Challenging Altuve proved to be their undoing.
"I thought about it. It was a consideration," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of pitching around Altuve. "The problem with putting him on is they have a guy who's killed us in Preston Tucker on the bench that they can pinch hit so you've got to pick your poison there. We were trying to pitch him carefully. We weren't trying to give him anything to hit. Sometimes the location is missed and the guy gets a hit."
NOTES: Tigers LHP Kyle Lobstein made his third injury rehab start on Saturday night, allowing five runs (two earned) on three hits and three walks with four strikeouts over 2 1/3 innings with Triple-A Toledo. Lobstein was placed on the disabled list on May 24 with left shoulder soreness. ... Astros OF George Springer is regaining range of motion in his right wrist via a throwing program, another step in his return from the disabled list. Springer, placed on the DL on July 2, lifted weights recently for the first time and is set to pick up a bat this week. ... Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera is likely to serve as the designated hitter again sometime soon as he transitions back into the everyday lineup following a 35-game stint on the disabled list. Cabrera was the DH on Saturday night.