By KRISTIE RIEKEN
AP Sports Writer
HOUSTON (AP) — Another day, another ninth-inning comeback for the Baltimore Orioles.
Cedric Mullins hit a three-run homer in the ninth inning to rally the Orioles past the Houston Astros 8-7 on Monday night in a matchup of American League division leaders.
The stirring victory came a day after Baltimore scored the tying run in the ninth inning against Tampa Bay and went on to win 5-4 in 11 innings on a sacrifice fly by Mullins.
“Extremely impressed by the grit of our team,” manager Brandon Hyde said. “How tough they are, how we continue to battle.”
Houston led by two entering the ninth before closer Ryan Pressly (3-5) allowed consecutive singles to Ryan O’Hearn and Austin Hays with one out. Mullins then hit his 15th homer into the seats in right field to put the Orioles on top.
“It was devastating,” Astros manager Dusty Baker said. “But you’ve got to get over it. … That hurt a lot.”
Yordan Alvarez reached second to start the bottom of the ninth on a throwing error by Gold Glove third baseman Ramón Urías. Pinch-runner Jake Meyers advanced when José Abreu lined out to right field, but held at third when Kyle Tucker grounded out to second. Cionel Pérez was replaced by Yennier Cano, who struck out Chas McCormick to get his seventh save.
Gunnar Henderson got three hits, including his AL-leading ninth triple, and O’Hearn had a career-high five hits with two RBIs for the AL East-leading Orioles a day after they clinched their first postseason berth since 2016.
“I seemed to have a magic wand tonight,” O’Hearn said. “Putting together good at-bats, balls were finding holes and it was awesome.”
Baltimore moved 2 1/2 games ahead of the second-place Rays.
Houston has lost three of four but maintained a 1 1/2-game lead in the AL West thanks to a fourth straight loss by Texas on Monday night against Boston. Seattle is also 1 1/2 behind the Astros.
“You feel like we’re about to break out,” Baker said. “Because we’re hitting some balls hard — we just don’t have much to show for it.”
Mike Baumann (10-1) pitched 1 1/3 innings for the win.
The Astros used a four-run sixth to take a 5-3 lead, but the Orioles tied it in the seventh on RBI doubles by Adley Rutschman and Mullins.
There was one out in the seventh when Abreu hit his 16th homer to straightaway center field off Danny Coulombe to put the Astros back on top.
Martin Maldonado connected off Baumann on his shot to center field with one out in the eighth.
The Astros trailed 3-1 in the sixth when Tucker tripled on a ball hit off the wall in left field with one out and scored on a single by McCormick to cut the lead to one. McCormick stole second and moved to third on a wild pitch by Shintaro Fujinami.
Jeremy Peña then singled to tie it at 3 and chase Fujinami.
Jacob Webb took over and walked Mauricio Dubón before striking out Maldonado. Jose Altuve then doubled on a liner that bounced off the wall in left field to score two and put the Astros up 5-3.
Henderson singled to start the seventh and scored on a double by Rutschman to get the Orioles within one.
O’Hearn then hit a liner that bounced off reliever Rafael Montero’s leg for a single. There was one out in the inning when Mullins doubled to score Rutschman and tie it.
O’Hearn also attempted to score on the play but the throw home was just in time for Maldonado to tag him out.
Houston starter Justin Verlander allowed eight hits and three runs in six innings.
Baltimore starter John Means yielded four hits and a run over five innings in his second start since having Tommy John surgery in April 2022.
Altuve hit a leadoff double and scored on a two-out double by Tucker to put Houston up 1-0.
Henderson tripled to right field with one out in the third and scored on a sacrifice fly by Rutschman to tie it.
Jorge Mateo and Henderson hit consecutive singles with one out in the fifth. They each moved up a base on a groundout by Rutschman before a single to center field by O’Hearn scored them both to put Baltimore up 3-1.
Orioles: 1B Ryan Mountcastle (sore left shoulder) missed his fifth straight game but Hyde said Mountcastle was doing better and the Orioles don’t plan to place him on the injured list.
Astros: RHP Ryne Stanek, out since spraining his right ankle Sept. 4, is scheduled to begin a rehabilitation assignment with Triple-A Sugar Land on Tuesday. Baker said he wasn’t sure how many games Stanek would need before coming off the injured list.
Baltimore RHP Kyle Gibson (14-9, 4.98 ERA) opposes RHP Hunter Brown (11-11, 4.61) when the series continues Tuesday night.
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