MIAMI -- Astros manager Brad Mills had been talking repeatedly for the past few days about how well his club had been battling tooth and nail late in games, though it wasn't able to complete any comebacks while stumbling to three consecutive losses.
Mills hoped, if not promised, that it would only be a matter of time before Astros hitters would be able to come up with a few clutch hits and finally snatch a win away from defeat. His players rewarded his faith in them on Saturday night.
The Astros rallied for four runs in the ninth inning against closer Heath Bell, including back-to-back two-out RBI singles by J.D. Martinez and Carlos Lee, to snap a three-game losing streak with a 5-4 win over the Marlins before a stunned crowd at Marlins Park.
"It's huge," said closer Brett Myers, who sent the Marlins down in order in the ninth for his second save. "We're a scrappy ballclub. This is something we didn't do last year. We'd go out there and feel like we're down and out and didn't have a chance. That's one of the best closers in the game right there, and obviously signing here proved that. We went out there and battled him as best we could, and it ended up working out for us."
The Astros' improbable rally, which netted their first win this season after trailing entering the ninth, was fueled by a series of clutch hits from Lee, Martinez, Travis Buck and Jose Altuve, as well as three errors in the inning by the Marlins.
"At the end, it got a little sloppy," acting Marlins manager Joey Cora said. "It's a tough one to swallow. You've got to give them credit. They kept playing and fighting and they found a way, and we didn't find a way to close it out."
No error was bigger than the fly ball off the bat of Brian Bogusevic that Marlins left fielder Logan Morrison misplayed in the wind or the lights and dropped with two outs, allowing pinch-runner Justin Maxwell to score from first base with the go-ahead run.
"I called it when he hit it, and I said, 'It's trouble,'" said Martinez, who understands the perils of playing left field. "It's one of those [balls] that wasn't too high or too low and was in the lights."
Rookie reliever Rhiner Cruz pitched two scoreless innings in relief of starter Bud Norris to earn his first Major League win.
"It's my first win in the big leagues, and I'm so excited," said Cruz, who had the game ball tucked away safely in his locker.
Myers scurried to get warmed up when the Astros rallied, and then hardly broke a sweat in a 1-2-3 ninth inning to save his second game in as many opportunities to help the Astros even their record at 4-4.
"I was tossing already, so I have to be prepared in any situation right there," Myers said. "It wasn't tough to get warmed up. You sit down there for four of five innings and get in the mentality you're not going to pitch, and then all of a sudden you have to get ready quick. It's like a switch you have to flip on."
Altuve began the ninth-inning rally by reaching third base with one out on a double and a fielding error by center fielder Emilio Bonifacio, and he came around to score on a pinch-hit single by Buck, who's relishing his bench role in his first season in the National League. Jordan Schafer reached on catcher's interference to push Buck to second.
"After I came up, we had top of the order," Buck said. "We had guys that could do some damage. Heath Bell is one of the best closers in the league, and he's going to come after you. His stuff is good and he knows it, and you're going to have to beat him with his fastball and stuff like that. Once I got on base and got that run across, it was time to the let big boys get some ABs."
Martinez, who extended his hitting streak to eight games to begin the season, and Lee followed with consecutive RBI singles to tie the game one out later, with Lee getting some redemption after grounding out weakly with the bases loaded against Bell a night earlier.
"I was just trying to stay with something up the middle," Martinez said. "I felt confident, I felt like I saw the ball well. Once I got 3-2, I really didn't panic. That was one of the first times I was relaxed. I was surprised how relaxed I was, just because I knew I saw his pitches well, and if I got out, I chased something and fetched one of his pitches and got myself out. I felt confident against him and really didn't hit that panic button."
Norris went six innings and allowed six hits and four runs, including three runs in the third inning to allow the Marlins to take a 4-1 lead. Norris took solace in being able to retire 10 of the final 11 batters he faced before being lifted for a pinch-hitter.
"They were kind of attacking early and it was just kind of frustrating because things didn't go my way, but I just kind of settled down from there and got through six," he said.