Houston, TX – Alex Avila ripped a two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning to lift the Detroit Tigers to a 4-3 win over the Houston Astros in the second of a four-game set from Minute Maid Park.
Trailing 3-2 entering the ninth, Avila worked a 3-1 count with one away and Don Kelly on first before delivering the decisive blow to right-center field off Jose Veras (0-2).
"It felt amazing," Avila said. "I'm sure my expression on the field said it all. When you're struggling and you do something good on the field, it feels good."
Doug Fister started for Detroit and scattered nine hits and three runs - two earned - in six-plus innings. Drew Smyly (2-0) tossed two perfect innings of relief to earn the win.
Jose Valverde locked the door for his third save in as many opportunities since re-joining the Tigers earlier this season.
Jose Altuve went 3-for-5 with an RBI for the Astros, who dropped their fourth straight game behind Bud Norris, who struck out seven while yielding just two runs in seven innings of work.
"Bud Norris did what a top starter does when his team is light in the bullpen after a 14-inning games," said Astros manager Bo Porter. "He went out there for seven innings and pitched like a top starter and held one of the best offensive teams in our league to two runs."
Trailing 2-0 entering the bottom of the seventh inning, Matt Dominguez led off with a double to left and advanced to third on Rick Ankiel's single. Marwin Gonzalez then reached when Omar Infante muffed a ground ball, and Dominguez came around for Houston's first run.
Robbie Grossman then roped a single to left, plating Ankiel, and Altuve's sharp grounder up the middle went under Fister's glove and ricocheted off second base, giving him enough time to leg out an infield single. Gonzalez trotted home and the Astros had the lead before a single out had been recorded in the inning.
Smyly replaced Fister on the hill and avoided further damage by retiring the next three batters in order.
The Tigers scored one run apiece in the second and fourth innings off Norris. Jhonny Peralta put them on the board with an RBI single to left in the second and Victor Martinez gave them some insurance two innings later with a single of his own, plating Miguel Cabrera.
Prince Fielder went 0-for-1 with three walks ... Houston was 3-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left nine men on base.