SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - Matt Downs was facing his former team and he insisted that carried no extra motivation. Just getting a big hit was a reward in itself.
Downs delivered a go-ahead single with one out in the 11th inning and the Houston Astros beat the San Francisco Giants 4-3 on Sunday to salvage a four-game split.
``I have a lot of friends on the other side,' Downs said. ``To get one late like that, it was a big win. It would have been just as big against any team. To get a win off any team in the race is always good.'
Downs did to the Giants what former Houston infielder Jeff Keppinger did to the Astros the previous two nights. Keppinger drove in the winning runs on Friday and Saturday night, both 2-1 Giants' wins.
``Having Downs get the winning hit against his former team was great,' Astros' starter Bud Norris said. ``I know he's on cloud nine.'
It was also a special homecoming for Norris, a Marin County native who was pitching in the Bay Area for the first time.
``He was back home and he was absolutely outstanding,' Houston manager Brad Mills said. ``He didn't want to come out and I didn't want him to come out, he was throwing that good. We had to try and tie the game there.'
Norris allowed two runs on three hits in his seven innings. He walked one and struck out 10.
``That was fun to watch,' Downs said. ``That's the best I've seen him all year.'
Jose Altuve got things going with a one-out double against Ramon Ramirez (2-3) and Downs followed with a single up the middle. Altuve was forced into action after slugger Carlos Lee left in the top of the ninth with a sprained right ankle, sustained sliding into second on a double.
Mills indicated Lee was OK and should be ready to play Monday night against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Mark Melancon (7-4) pitched the 10th and got the win despite allowing Mark DeRosa's tying single. David Carpenter finished for his first career save.
Houston went ahead 3-2 in the 10th on pinch-hitter Jason Michaels' double, then the Giants came back again.
Jordan Schafer lined a tying single to right with two outs in the eighth against Matt Cain to help force extra innings.
Aubrey Huff hit a tying RBI single off Houston starter Bud Norris in the seventh to end a 0-for-15 funk, and singled again in the ninth but the Giants didn't score. After Huff's initial hit in the seventh, Norris received a mound visit before giving up Orlando Cabrera's go-ahead sacrifice fly on the next pitch.
That one-run lead didn't last long.
Lee doubled against Sergio Romo in the ninth and hustled to beat the throw from right field. He came in hard to collide with shortstop Cabrera. Lee's right leg bent and it appeared the spikes on his right shoe got caught on the bag. He grabbed his right ankle in pain as the training staff rushed out to help him off the field.
Norris had only allowed one runner to reach second base before the Giants got to him for two runs in the seventh.
NOTES: Astros SS Clint Barmes had the day off. ... RHP Tim Lincecum takes the mound Monday for the Giants against the Chicago Cubs. The two-time NL Cy Young Award winner is 3-1 with a 0.91 ERA in his last four starts. ... Houston heads home to face Pittsburgh, with Wandy Rodriguez (9-9) getting the ball for the fourth time this year against the Pirates. He struck out 11 Pittsburgh batters in 5 2-3 innings back on July 17. ... Astros C Jason Castro, sidelined all season after right knee surgery, will join the team in Houston for the homestand to catch bullpens and take batting practice before returning to Florida for instructional league. ``It will be a good chance for us to see him and evaluate where he is,' manager Brad Mills said. ... Mills left passes for his old community college coach at College of the Sequoias, Bert Holt, and his wife, Sue.
The Associated Press News Service
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