Valbuena's noche! Astros' walk-off unreal

July 9th, 2016

HOUSTON -- Luis Valbuena hit a walk-off, three-run homer against A's closer Ryan Madson in the ninth inning, propelling the Astros to a dramatic 10-9 victory following a five-run outburst by Oakland in the top half of the frame at Minute Maid Park on Friday night.
Jose Altuve sparked the rally, reaching base on a one-out single, stealing second and advancing to third on a third-strike wild pitch that put runners at the corners for Valbuena, who hammered the first pitch he saw from Madson into the right-field stands.
"I don't think any of this ninth inning could've been predicted," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said.
Astros All-Star closer Will Harris was off the hook for the loss, after allowing four runs in an inning that saw Yonder Alonso hit a two-run homer and Khris Davis follow with a go-ahead, two-run double.

"Any time you lose on a walk-off like that, it's brutal, but based on the fact we had come back with a guy with a less-than-1 ERA," A's manager Bob Melvin said, referring to Harris, "we put together good at-bats the whole inning and give ourselves a two-run lead, it's tough. Ryan's been really good for us this year ... I feel good whenever he takes the mound when we have the lead. I fully believed we were going to win the game." 
Earlier in the game, Carlos Correa notched his 14th home run of the season, a two-run shot in the fourth against A's starter Daniel Mengden. Astros right-hander Collin McHugh, meanwhile, took a no-decision, allowing four runs (three earned) on eight hits -- including Marcus Semien's 19th home run in a three-run fourth -- across six-plus innings.

Valbuena comes up big: Valbuena's walk-off homer added to what's become a great homestand for the third baseman. He is hitting .333 (8-for-24) since the Astros started their 10-game homestand July 1. All 12 of Valbuena's home runs this season, along with 37 RBIs and 12 doubles, have come since May 7. The Astros have been winning a lot recently, and Valbuena is a big part of that. More >
"He's been doing this for a while," Hinch said. "This isn't a good homestand or a good stretch. This is a good player who's found a comfort zone to where he feels good at the plate."

Wild pitch proves costly: The pitch that preceded Valbuena's homer was equally significant: a full-count curveball that Correa swung through went past catcher Stephen Vogt for a wild pitch that put runners on first and third and brought the potential winning run to the plate. Vogt said after the game that he and Madson got crossed up on the pitch.
"He saw an extra sign," Vogt said. "I hesitated a little bit giving the sign, so we just weren't on the same page. I was expecting a heater away, and he threw a really good curveball. I wish I could say I could've still blocked it. It's just one of those things that just happens. It's frustrating, especially because we battled back to take the lead, and it stings."
Harris shows mortality: Houston's All-Star closer has been one of the most consistent relievers in baseball this season, so the game seemed done when he entered with a three-run lead in the ninth. Instead, Harris started the inning on a bad note, allowing a double to Billy Butler for his first extra-base hit allowed in 37 games, a franchise record. Then Yonder Alonso tattooed a two-run homer. Harris allowed two more hits, forcing Astros manager A.J. Hinch to go to Michael Feliz. He allowed a double and a single, and just like that, the A's had a 9-7 lead.
"I was trying to move it around the best I could," Harris said. "They were on it. Just a bad day. Try again tomorrow."

Shaken: Mengden survived a scary moment in the fourth inning, and though he was deemed well enough to remain in the game, after taking a 100-mph liner off the bat of Carlos Gomez to his chest, he faltered quickly thereafter. Mengden struck out A.J. Reed to put an end to the frame but scattered four hits in the fifth and departed with two outs, after limiting the Astros to just two hits through four innings. The rookie, a Houston native who was drafted by the Astros in 2014, was on the hook for six runs, two more than he had given up in any of his previous five starts. Mengden had more than 100 friends and family members in attendance for the event.
"I thought he was really good, just kind of lost his command a little bit right after he got hit in the chest," Vogt said. "He's a tough kid for staying out there."

"I think it was one of those things that scared me more than it hurt," Mengden said. "Maybe it affected me, maybe it didn't, I don't know. I just wasn't making good pitches and executing."
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"I was pretty pumped. I was screaming pretty loud. Giving up runs is one thing. You don't want to lose the game for your team. To give up runs and still get a win feels pretty good." -- Harris, on his reaction to Valbuena's home run
Correa's home run, which went 412 feet as projected by Statcast™, was the 35th of his career as a shortstop, tying Adam Everett's mark for the most in franchise history at the position. The difference? Everett played in 649 games for the Astros, while Friday was Correa's 182nd.

While most of the night went pretty well for Correa, one moment was an exception. With runners on the corners and one out in the fifth, Correa hit an RBI single that brought home Springer and made the game 5-3 Astros, but Correa misjudged the distance of his hit while running the bases. Trapped between first and second base with nowhere to go, Correa ran back and forth between infielders before Altuve made a break for home. Altuve was tagged out at the plate, and the play was officially listed as an RBI single followed by an 8-6-4-3-6-2 putout.

Athletics: Right-hander Kendall Graveman will take the mound for Saturday's 1:10 p.m. PT matchup against the Astros. Graveman is 1-1 with a 6.91 ERA in three career starts against Houston.
Astros:Lance McCullers (4-2, 3.57 ERA) gets the ball Saturday at Minute Maid Park for a 3:10 p.m. CT first pitch in the third game of a four-game series. McCullers is coming off one of his best starts of the season, a win over the Mariners in which he struck out 10 in seven innings.
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