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HOU@TEX: Downs drills a two-run shot for the lead

ARLINGTON -- When the replay of Matt Downs' game-winning home run came on the television in the Astros' clubhouse Wednesday night, his teammates joked about how quickly he ran around the bases. Downs just couldn't wait to join the dugout celebration.

"The dugout got up a little bit after that," he said.

Downs came off the bench to hit a dramatic two-run home run off Rangers closer Neftali Feliz to break a tie and cap a four-run ninth inning, sending the Astros to an improbable 5-3 win over Texas at Rangers Ballpark.

The win snapped the Astros' four-game losing streak against the Rangers and gave them a 3-3 road trip through Los Angeles and Arlington, with two of those losses coming by one run. It was just the Astros' third win this season when trailing after eight innings (3-43).

"There's no doubt that it's a confidence booster, just with the guys battling so much," Astros manager Brad Mills said. "They were able to get something for it."

Downs' home run was his fifth of the season and his second in a pinch-hit role. It also snapped a long homerless drought for the Astros, who hadn't gone deep since June 14 -- a span of eight games and 338 at-bats. That was their longest homerless drought since an eight-game dry spell in 1992.

And it couldn't come in more dramatic fashion for Downs, who drilled a knee-high, 3-1 fastball from Feliz and sent it well over the left-field wall. Downs pumped his fist in jubilation as he rounded first base.

"When you get 3-1, you're looking for a fastball, obviously," Downs said. "A guy like that throwing as hard as he is, you've just got to get ready and get it out there early."

Mark Melancon picked up his team-high fifth win in relief by allowing one run in two innings, escaping a bases-loaded jam in the eighth. Feliz allowed a career-high-tying four runs after throwing 35 pitches in two innings in Tuesday's game.

"I'm sure his arm wasn't as live as it would have been on a fresh night because he threw 40 pitches last night," Downs said. "We were actually surprised to see him in there. We figured we'd see somebody else, but thank goodness we did."

Rangers manager Ron Washington offered no excuses.

"We had a 3-1 lead and our closer in there and we didn't get it done," he said. "You have to tip your cap to the Astros. They swung the bats and made some loud sounds."

Carlos Lee started the ninth for the Astros with a double down the left-field line. Chris Johnson had an RBI double with one out, and Jason Michaels reached on an infield hit. Johnson scored on a passed ball to tie the game, setting the stage for Downs' heroics. After the home run, Downs is hitting .389 as a pinch-hitter this year.

"He's done a real good job off the bench swinging the bat for us," Mills said. "That was a key spot for him. He's been hitting the ball out of the ballpark, but we just felt real confident with him putting a good swing on the ball, wherever it went. Sure enough, he's just done an absolutely outstanding job."

Brett Myers, who posted a complete-game victory over the Dodgers in his previous start, pitched well for the Astros, giving up six hits and two runs while striking out six batters in six innings. Rangers starter Colby Lewis threw seven scoreless innings, giving up three hits and one walk with eight strikeouts.

Myers was in line to suffer a hard-luck loss before the Astros rallied.

"That was big," he said. "We're not known for coming back late in games. We've maybe done it a couple of times this year, but it's good when we do it to show ourselves we can do it, and they were able to pull if off tonight against a very good closer."

Myers allowed Ian Kinsler to reach on a single to start the first inning and then watched him come around to score on a stolen base, a groundout and a wild pitch. Myers then sent down 13 of the next 14 batters before Nelson Cruz took him deep in the fifth to make it 2-0.

Myers said he suffered a slight right hamstring strain in the second inning, but he pitched through it.

"I was a little intimidated because I had Nolan Ryan watching me pitch," Myers said, referring to the Rangers president and Hall of Famer. "That was cool and intimidating at the same time, having your idol watch you pitch. I looked over there and saw him and said, 'All right, I don't know what to do here.' It was cool to see him over there, and I was able to go out there and give our team a chance to win."

The Astros got on the board in the eighth when Jason Bourgeois hit into a double play, allowing Angel Sanchez to score from third. Michael Young had an RBI double off Melancon in the bottom of the inning to put Texas ahead, 3-1.

"We needed something to get it started," Mills said. "Sanchez was able to get it started in the eighth and come around and get us going and Carlos, of course, with his double and C.J. with his double. We just needed something to get us going." Comments