In a match up of former University of Arkansas roommates, Dallas Keuchel out-pitched Drew Smyly to lead the Houston Astros to a 6-2 win over the Detroit Tigers, salvaging one victory in the four game series. The Astros' snapped a five game losing skein, the Tigers' winning streak coming to an end after eight games.
Keuchel (3-2) was extremely effective in neutralizing the Tigers' bats, giving up just two runs and six hits, striking out seven without allowing a walk in 7 2/3 innings. Anthony Bass and Chad Qualls would keep the Tigers scoreless over the remaining 1 1/3 innings.
Smyly (2-2) was solid for four shutout innings, and pitched into the sixth. But things went sideways in the fifth, allowing three runs. The young lefty was pulled after 5 1/3 innings after allowing those three runs, giving up five hits while walking three and striking out only two. Called on to keep the game close, the Tigers' bullpen threw gas on the fire. Evan Reed and Justin Miller both served up home runs, accounting for the final margin.
The Astros won via something rare for them - multiple long balls. George Springer, Jesus Guzman and Matt Dominguez all went deep, accounting for four of the Astros' six runs. Tiny human Jose Altuve added a two RBI double.
Today, the Tigers' offense may just as well be deemed "The Victor Martinez Show." The veteran switch-hitter had three of the Tigers' six hits, one a home run. Nick Castellanos accounted for the other Tigers' run with an RBI double.
The loss drops the Tigers to 20-10, .667 on the season. Only ten games over .500 in May, a 4 1/2 game lead in the Central, and the best record in baseball? DOOOOOM.
A quiet first inning led to a Tigers' lead in the second, thanks to Austin Jackson and Nick Castellanos.
Victor Martinez singled (11 game hitting streak!) with one out against Astros starter Dallas Keuchel. Jackson followed with what appeared to be a double play ball to second. But thanks to his hustle and the Astros being the Astros, Jackson beat the relay, keeping the inning alive for Castellanos.
The impressive rookie just missed a home run by inches, but his fly ball to deep right did carom off the top of the wall, rolling away from George Springer. Jackson easily scored on Castellanos' two out RBI double, the Tigers taking a 1-0 lead.
Drew Smyly had only allowed a first inning walk before L.J. Hoes reached on a two out infield single with two down in the third. He was quickly eliminated when Jose Altuve bounced into an inning ending double plat.
Was another pitching duel on tap? The a very fast moving game was leaning in that direction.
Less than an hour of play and we're into the 4th inning. If this game goes any faster, the innings are going to start going backwards.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 8, 2014
Through four innings, a very efficient Smyly had allowed only one hit, walked one and struck out two on a mere 50 pitches.
Bottom of four, Keuchel was cruising along as well ... until Martinez the Elder strode to the plate. One down, the (pick a term for being so hot, he's untouchable) Martinez crushed a 90 MPH 0-2 fastball, launching a fly ball into the bullpens. The solo shot, Martinez's team-leading seventh home run of the season and third in four games, pushed the Detroit lead to 2-0 (MLB.com video).
One out in the fifth, the Astros finally got on the scoreboard against Smyly. J.D. Martinez, who had run down an earlier pair of fly balls in deep right center, could only watch as Springer's line shot cleared the wall at the 365 mark. The home run was both the first of Springer's season and career, pulling the Astros within a run at 2-1.
Unfortunately, Smyly had trouble getting the final out of the inning against the bottom of the Astros' order. He walked number eight hitter Carlos Corporan (.161 BA), number nine batter L.J. Hoes (.163 BA) singled to left. Forced to face the top of the Astros' order with runners on base, the failure to end the inning would cost him dearly.
The lead evaporated when Altuve kept fouling off two strike pitches until he found one he could handle, lining a double into the left field corner. By the time Rajai Davis got the ball in, Altuve was standing on second with a two RBI double.
The Astros suddenly acting like an actual big league team, Keuchel retired the side in order in the bottom of the fifth.
Meanwhile, on an 80 degree afternoon in Detroit, Smyly was losing his effectiveness and battling his command. He allowed a single to Jesus Guzman, then walked the free swinging Chris Carter.
Dartmouth man Brad Ausmus could see the writing on the wall, pulling his starter after 5 1/3 innings. Evan Reed took over for Smyly, and Guzman immediately stole third. That made the Double Play Gods unhappy, so Reed ended the threat by inducing Springer to bounce into a 4-6-3 twin killing.
Despite entering the game 9-1 versus left-handers this season, Keuchel was proving southpaws can still be Tigers' kryptonite. Through six innings he had retired eight straight since Martrinez went yard, and his pitch count was in great shape 79.
Reed was struggling with the bottom of the Astros' order as well, allowing a seventh inning solo shot to Corporan. The his fifth home run of the season pushed the Houston lead to 4-2.
Bottom of seven, the Tigers' bats started to stir. Martinez the elder led off by singling, his third hit of the afternoon. One down, Jackson became the only other Tiger besides Martinez and Castellanos with a base hit, singling to center.
The Astros proceeded to keep the inning alive by botching a double play for the second time on the day. A bad throw by Altuve allowed Castellanos to beat the relay, Jackson taking third.
Runners on the corners and two out, Ausmus went to the his bench, where Torii Hunter was found. The veteran pinch-hit for Bryan Holaday with a chance to get the Tigers back in the game. In not the best of at-bats, Hunter was punched out on a 1-2 checked swing, ending the threat.
Justin Miller replaced Reed to start the eighth, and retired the side in order, the Astros' lead holding at two runs. But anyone not named "Victor Martinez" had yet to solve Keuchel, who remained in the the game to start the eighth. But he was on a short leash.
Ian Kinsler singled with two down, which meant the game-tying run was the plate in Miguel Cabrera. That quickly brought Bo Porter out of the dugout to make a pitching change.
Right-hander Anthony Bass got the pleasure of facing Cabrera. It turned out to actually be a pleasure for the Trenton, MI native. Cabrera's dribber to second ended the inning.
Top of nine, Justin Miller solidified his case for being the odd man out when Luke Putkonen comes of the 15-day DL. The bottom of the Astros' order continued to bedevil the Tigers when Miller served up a no-doubt, two run bomb to the number seven hitter, Matt Dominguez (.229 BA). His third homer of the season was also the third of the game for Houston, the Astros now up 6-2.
Chad Qualls was asked to close out the win for the Astros. Being the Tigers had pounded the ball into the turf all afternoon long, it was fitting the game ended on a 6-4-3 double play off the bat of Jackson.
Game over. No happy totals today.
Your final score is Astros 6, Tigers 2.
Losses happen. Time to start a new winning streak!
The Twinkies arrive in town for a three game weekend series with the Tigers. Game one features Yankees' expat Phil Hughes (3-1, 4.72 ERA) taking on Justin Verlander (4-1, 2.68 ERA).
Out of the New York spotlight, Hughes has pitched well as of late. After a rough start to 2014, the 27-year-old right-hander has won three straight, all quality starts. That stretch includes a 5-3 victory over the Tigers on April 26, allowing one run on four hits over seven innings.
Verlander took a no-hitter into the sixth inning of his last start, a win over the Royals. He's 4-0 over his last five appearances, pitching seven innings in his last three.
Friday night's first pitch at Comeica Park is scheduled for 7:08 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
The Tigers will be honoring Jim Leyland this Saturday. I wholeheartedly concur with the following sentiments:
If the fans don't rain down packs of Marlboros on the field as Leyland takes the mound on Saturday, I will be very disappointed.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 8, 2014
@blessyouboys If they don't give everyone in attendance a half-eaten paper plate of potato salad, it's not a true Jim Leyland tribute.— Al Beaton (@BigAlBYB) May 8, 2014
Things we learned on FSD today: Rod Allen has ate lots of ramen noodles, calls pitching coach Jeff Jones "Doug," and thinks "orange is a nice color." Mario Impemba would eat a pizza a day, if he could.
Let's make like Ray Stevens and talk streaks!
- Victor Martinez's hitting streak was extended to 11 games with a first inning single. His fourth inning home run was his second in two days and third in four games. Via Tigers' PR, Martinez now has more career home runs on 0-2 pitches (12) than on 2-0 pitches (11).
- In all four games with the Astros, the Tigers scored first.
- The Tigers turned a season high three double plays during today's game.
- Tigers' pitchers had not allowed a home run in 55 1/3 innings, a streak snapped when George Springer went yard in the fifth.
- The Astros snapped a five game losing streak.
- The Tigers' winning streak comes to an end after eight games.
Victor Martinez: Another three hit day for Martinez raises his numbers to a ridiculous .333/.389/.577.
Dombrowski moves that "Extension discussion with VMart" event on his calendar from November 1 to June 1.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 8, 2014
Nick Castellanos: In a day short of many obvious ROAR nominees, Castellanos gets one for his second inning RBI double.
Winning streaks ending: Remember, everything ends badly, otherwise they wouldn't end. But the winning streak sure was fun while it lasted!
The soft underbelly of the Tigers' bullpen: The back end of the bullpen looks to be in fine shape with Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan. Then things tend to get sketchy. Asked to keep the game close, Evan Reed and Justin Miller combined to allow three runs on three hits, all coming via home runs.
The Tigers' offense, Victor Martinez excluded: Take Tuesday's 18 hit explosion out of the mix, the Tigers had 17 hits in the other three games combined and were out-hit by the Astros in two of them.
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GAME 29 PLAYER OF THE GAME:
Joba Chamberlain has taken a stranglehold on the setup job thanks to performances like last night's - Four up, four down, strikes out the side in the eighth. In a game with many candidates, the bearded wonder took PotG with 34% of the vote.