HOUSTON -- The way the Astros and Marlins battled for six nip-and-tuck games this season, it was only fitting their final meeting of the season -- and perhaps final meeting for the immediate future -- was a knock-down, drag-out war of attrition at Minute Maid Park.
The Marlins broke through in the top of the 12th inning on a two-run single by Omar Infante off reliever David Carpenter, but it wasn't until J.A. Happ -- pinch-hitting because the Astros were out of position players -- struck out to the end the game that Miami was able to exhale.
The Astros finished their nine-game homestand with a disappointing 5-3 loss to the Marlins on Wednesday night in a game took more than four hours to play. Five of the six meetings between the clubs this year were decided by one run or in extra innings.
"We battled all the way through," said Astros manager Brad Mills, whose team finished a 6-3 run at home. "We've been talking about our pitching and our bullpen, and those guys again tonight, they kept giving us chances to get a run and win this thing, and it didn't [happen]."
The Astros have played three extra-inning games in 2012, all of which have come against the Marlins. The teams are so familiar with one another, tensions flared in the seventh inning when Houston reliever Wilton Lopez hit Marlins slugger Hanley Ramirez, forcing the umpires to warn both benches after Ramirez glared at Lopez.
The game wouldn't have gone to extra innings had Astros outfielder Brian Bogusevic not come through in the bottom of the ninth inning with a two-out single to score pinch-runner Marwin Gonzalez from third and tie the game. Gonzalez was pinch-running for Carlos Lee, who hit an unlikely bloop triple with one out past a diving Giancarlo Stanton in right field.
"We tied it up and the game was in the bullpen's hands, and they've been great all year," Bogusevic said. "They were great for however many innings they threw tonight. We just couldn't push across that last one. You can't win every game, but if you play the way we did tonight, I think we'll be all right more often than not."
Houston's bullpen, which entered Wednesday ranked third in the league with a 2.80 ERA, threw 5 2/3 scoreless innings before Infante's bases-loaded hit on an 0-2 pitch with two outs scored Logan Morrison and Greg Dobbs to win the game for Miami.
"I made the pitch I wanted, but it was off the plate, and he was able to put the barrel on it," Carpenter said. "I wish it would have been down a little bit more and maybe get a ground ball, but he's a good hitter, he's a Major League hitter and he did what he's supposed to do with it. I wish I could have thrown it a little lower. That's the only thing I'd change."
Marlins starter Josh Johnson held the Astros to four hits and two runs in seven innings while striking out seven batters in his best outing of what has been a subpar season. Still, he was denied his first win in more than a year when the Astros rallied in the ninth.
"I threw my fastball, located it," Johnson said. "My heater, that's my game how I get outs. Whenever I don't do that, that's when I get in trouble. You could tell by the hitters' reactions that the ball was coming out pretty good."
Astros starter Lucas Harrell, who was let go by Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen last year while with the White Sox, lasted 5 1/3 innings and allowed six hits, three walks and three runs (two earned).
"I can't say enough about how this team battles, really fighting hard and never giving up and playing 'til the last out," Harrell said. "It was just one of those things I feel like the last couple of times out I'm one or two pitches away from turning the corner and having a really good start, and it's kind of gone the other way again."
Both leadoff hitters reached and scored on an error in the first inning. Jose Reyes walked and scored on the first error of the season by Astros shortstop Jed Lowrie, and Houston's Jordan Schafer (4-for-5) doubled and scored on a throwing error by Marlins catcher John Buck. Lowrie committed another error in the 10th.
The Astros took a 2-1 lead in the second inning when Chris Johnson lined a home run into the left-field seats. It was his fourth homer of the season, tying him with Lowrie for the team lead. The Marlins pushed a pair of runs across in the fourth inning to take a 3-2 lead on an RBI singles by Buck and Reyes.
Despite losing the game in extra innings, Mills remains encouraged by his young club's play.
"After a tough road trip, it's definitely nice to get these guys back going again and have a good homestand, a winning homestand," he said. "After spending so much of the first month on the road, it was nice to come home and have a real good homestand. It's a confidence-booster."