A's Outlast Astros, 9-8, With Wild Finish
Indians Now 1.5 Games Back For Top AL Berth

Reddick, Altuve, Springer celebrate lead
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This was the type of game we've seen the Astros pull out all year. With the help of three homers, Houston built a 7-3 lead Friday night. Collin McHugh left in the fourth with a torn fingernail and the bullpen had to work early however the bullpen is expanded and they had an off day the day before so fatigue can't be an excuse.

Still, Marcus Semien poked a grand slam homer off Luke Gregerson in the seventh that tucked just inside the left field foul pole which tied the game. Yet, when former Athletic Josh Reddick, who earlier smashed a two-run shot in the fifth, doubled home George Springer in the top of the ninth for his fourth RBI of the game, most figured the Astros had survived with their eighth straight win.

All but the last place A's, a team that has already been through a fire sale this summer, who ambushed Ken Giles to score twice in the bottom of the ninth for a dramatic (gut-wrenching if you're an Astros fan) 9-8 decision. Jed Lowrie, whom the A's tried to give away at the two trade deadlines, haunted his former club with a bloop single to center which plated Semien with the winning run.

Jose Altuve and Yuli Gurriel went deep off Jharel Cotton, along with Reddick, to build the lead but the Athletics eventually totaled four homers of their own, including the game-tying blast by Herschel "Boog" Powell off Giles in the ninth.

A casual observer or an Oakland fan might have called the walk-off win a classic. For Houston fans, it felt more like a gut punch. The Astros, at 86-54, have seen their lead for the top playoff spot in the American League dwindle to 1-1/2 games in front of the Cleveland Indians (85-56) who have won 16 in a row.

While the Indians play Baltimore, the Astros play a double-header Saturday afternoon which includes a make-up game for a rain out earlier in the year. Charlie Morton (11-6) will pitch the 3:05 Central opener for Houston against Daniel Gossett (3-8). Then Brad Peacock (10-2) will begin the nightcap in a duel with Daniel Mengden (0-1). All are righthanders. Catcher/DH Evan Gattis is expected to be activated from the Disabled List after the twinbill.

With 140 games in the books, the Astros are entering the home stretch. Whether they reach the finish line with the best record in the league still remains to be seen.

- Bob Hulsey