OAKLAND -- So who cares about getting your first big league hit if you can make a game-saving play in your major league debut on the first ball hit to you?
That's the way it went for Oakland's Shane Peterson on Tuesday night. He went 0 for 4 at the plate with two strikeouts but made a spectacular diving stop at first base in the third inning that changed the complexion of an eventual 4-3 A's win over Houston before 11,038 at the Coliseum.
Josh Donaldson drove in the winning run with a two-out triple in the eighth inning, snapping a 3-3 tie. But without Peterson, who was called up to replace Brandon Moss after Moss' wife gave birth to a boy earlier in the day, Donaldson wouldn't have had a chance to be the hitting hero.
"You never know how the game will end up if they score those runs there," said Donaldson. "But he definitely made what you would call a game-saving play."
A's starter A.J. Griffin, a major beneficiary of Peterson's gem, fully supported that notion.
"That's the play of the game for me right there," said Griffin, who went on to pitch through the sixth and retired the last 11 hitters he faced. "Not to take anything away from Donaldson's triple, but that play was huge. It kept us in the game, and it allowed me to go out there and continue pitching. It was a momentum changer."
The Astros already had a 2-0 lead in the third inning and had the bases loaded with two out when Rick Ankiel came to the plate. On the first pitch he saw, Ankiel smashed a liner past the first base bag that appeared headed for the right-field corner.
Peterson made a sprawling dive to snare the shot and end the inning, saving at least two runs and possibly three.
"He hit it pretty hard and I didn't have time to think about it, which probably made it better for me at that time," said Peterson, who said he was nervous in the field when the game started.
Griffin was the first guy to greet Peterson in the dugout after his defensive gem.
"He put his arm around me and gave me a little punch in the stomach," Peterson said. "Then everybody just gave me high-fives, which made me feel pretty happy."
The play not only kept the A's in the game but also appeared to wake them up. The A's rallied with a run in the fourth against Houston starter Brad Peacock, Chris Young stealing two bases after a single and then scoring on a wild pitch.
Oakland then took the lead in the fifth when Eric Sogard, who had his first career three-hit game, doubled with one out and scored on Coco Crisp's triple off the right-field wall. After a John Jaso walk, Seth Smith chased Peacock with an RBI single that put the A's ahead 3-2.
Houston, which has now lost five straight to the A's, denied Griffin his third win when Carlos Pena hit his first homer of the year, a solo shot to left, against left-hander Sean Doolittle with two outs in the top of the eighth.
But when Donaldson delivered the big hit in the bottom of the eighth, a drive into the down the right-field line that bounced just inside the line after a Josh Reddick walk, the A's quickly finished it. Grant Balfour pitched a perfect ninth for his second save.
It was Donaldson's second game-winning hit on this homestand going down the line in right. He hit a walk-off homer against Detroit on Friday night.
"It was one of those nights where they kept pounding me fastballs away," said Donaldson. "I was fortunate to sneak it inside that line and help the team win."
The A's are targeting this weekend for Hiro Nakajima (hamstring) to run the bases, but Melvin said the shortstop probably wouldn't go on a rehab assignment until the team returns from its upcoming trip to Tampa and Boston.
Houston (Bud Norris 2-1) at A's (Bartolo Colon 1-0), 12:35 p.m. No TV