The Detroit Tigers, losing 2-1 in the ninth and down to their final out, turned what looked to be a second straight demoralizing loss to the Houston Astros into a wild victory when Ian Kinsler slugged a three run homer off Jerome Williams (MLB.com video). The Tigers would hold on from there, taking a come-from-behind 4-3 win over the Astros.
Thanks to the Tigers owning a lackluster offense for the majority of the game, a marvelous Max Scherzer could do little better than a no-decision. He struck out a season high 13, allowing just two first inning runs and scattering seven hits over seven innings.
The much derided Phil Coke, who has turned his season around with a very solid June, earned the win by tossing a scoreless eighth inning in relief of Scherzer. Struggling closer Joe Nathan didn't have a clean outing, allowing a lead off home run to Alex Presley. But Nathan retired the next three Astros to record his 17th save.
Houston lefty Brett Oberholtzer wasn't supposed to start today's game, but was called up from Triple-A due to an injury to Dallas Keuchel. Oberholtzer made the most of the opportunity, pitching into the seventh, holding the Tigers to one run and five hits in 6 1/3 innings.
Taking the loss for Houston was Jerome Williams. He was victimized by Kinsler's game-winning big fly, allowing three runs on three hits.
Kinsler supplied the majority of the Tigers' offense with his two hits, including the game-winning home run, and three RBI. Adding to Detroit's inconsistent attack was Eugenio Suarez with three hits and an RBI. Bryan Holaday also chipped in with two hits. Detroit's up-the-middle infield troika of catcher, second, and short combined on a 7-for-12 afternoon with four RBI and two runs scored. That made up somewhat for the Tigers' middle of the order struggles, the three through five spots having a rough 1-for-13 day.
Presley was the Astros' offense. His single in the first inning drove in their first two runs, and his ninth inning solo homer capped off the scoring.
The Tigers have won 8-of-9, are 8-2 in their last ten games and currently hold a four game lead over the Royals in the Al Central. Their road record is an MLB best 25-14. The Tigers have also pushed their W/L record for June to one game over break even at 13-12. Quite the accomplishment after starting the month 5-11, part of Detroit's miserable 10-20 stretch.
Max Scherzer: Deserved a far better fate, but was doomed to a no-decision thanks to a lack of run support. Scherzer allowed two runs in the first, then shut down the Astros over the remaining six innings.
Ian Kinsler: Bailed the Tigers out with a huge ninth inning home run, his tenth of the season. The too-hot-to-touch Kinsler had two hits on the day, a run scored and three RBI.
Idea: Fly Texas flag at Comerica Park
— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) June 28, 2014
Eugenio Suarez: Three hits on the day for the rookie shortstop. Saurez drove in the Tigers' first run with a fifth inning single and extended the ninth inning rally with his third single of the day.
Nick Castellanos: Reached base twice, started the Tigers' ninth inning comeback with a lead off single.
Bryan Holaday: Two hits, including a slick bunt single when the Tigers' threatened in the seventh.
Phil Coke: The resurgent lefty tossed a 1-2-3 eighth inning in relief of Scherzer, earning the win.
Tigers' offense for eight innings: Did nothing against a starting pitcher who entered the game 2-6 record and 4.40 ERA this season. Loaded the bases with one out in the seventh, and were unable to score. Save for the ninth inning heroics, the Tigers' offense has frustratingly quiet versus the Astros.
Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez: A big reason the Astros have given the Tigers fits is their pitching has had little trouble with the heart of Detroit's batting order. Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez were a combined 0-for-9 today, making Detroit's number three and four hitters 1-for-18 (.056) in the series.
Rajai Davis: His lack of defensive prowess played a big part in the Astros' two run first inning. With the bases loaded and one out in the seventh, Davis bounced weakly to third, resulting in a fielder's choice at home. Davis tried to bunt his way on base with two on and one out in the ninth but was thrown out, ending his rough day hitless with a walk.
Torii Hunter: In his last two at-bats combined (the second with the then tying run in scoring position), Hunter forced the Astros' to throw a total of two pitches. The results were a fly out and ground out. Since his return from a hamstring injury, Hunter is 2-for-17. His OBP for the season remains a miserable .282.
Joe Nathan: Still trying to regain his shut-down closer ways, Nathan served up a lead off home run, making for far more interesting ninth inning. After a four game stretch without allowing a run, Nathan has given up three runs on six hits over his last three innings of work.
The Astros were forced to make a pitching change, announcing late last night scheduled starter Dallas Keuchel was going to be scratched from today's game due to inflammation in his left wrist. Left-hander Brett Oberholtzer was recalled from Triple-A Oklahoma City to take Keuchel's place. Oberholtzer started the season in the Houston rotation, but was demoted after posting an 0-6 record and 5.68 ERA in seven starts.
The pitching change caused a ripple effect in the Tigers' lineup. Austin Jackson (badly slumping on the road trip, hitting .208/.296/.250 in six games) was removed from the starting lineup, replaced by Rajai Davis in center, batting lead off. Torii Hunter was bumped from second to sixth in the order. As to why Hunter and his .282 OBP has been hitting so high in the batting order is a question only Brad Ausmus can answer.
This also led to the Tigers going with their worst defensive lineup in the outfield - J.D. Martinez in left, Davis in center and Hunter in right. The dominoes continued to fall, as bad outfield defense played a large part in giving the Astros an extra run in the first inning. Davis made an ill-advised throw trying to nail George Springer going from first to third on Jon Singleton's single. Springer easily beat Davis' weak heave, while Singleton to advanced to second. Alex Presley followed with a single to center which Davis bobbled. Not that the bobble made any difference, as both runners easily scored.
If you were an opposing baserunner, why would you NOT run on this Tigers outfield?
— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) June 28, 2014
Astros' strategy: hit it to Rajai, score.
— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) June 28, 2014
Something to keep in mind since the Tigers last played (and swept) the Astros in the first week of May:
In between the first Detroit/Houston series and this one, both the Tigers and Astros went 23-22.
— Lee Panas (@tiger337) June 28, 2014
STREAKS AND STATS:
Max Scherzer equaled the number of strikeouts he had in two of his last three starts (eight) in just four innings today. Scherzer ended his afternoon with a season high 13 strikeouts. He's recorded more in just two games in his career - 14 K on May 30, 2010 against the A's and a career high 15 strikeouts on May 20, 2012 versus the Pirates.
The magma-hot Ian Kinsler didn't waste any time in extending his hitting streak to eight games, doubling in his first at-bat. Kinsler had two hits on the day, and is now hitting a robust .472 (17-for-36) with three home runs and ten RBI on the road trip.
Ian Kinsler's going to have a real sad face when he has to get on the airplane tomorrow
— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) June 28, 2014
Kinsler is the first Tigers player with seven straight multi-hit games in the same season since Frank Bolling did so from June 23-29, 1960.
Kinsler's go-ahead home run was the second of his career in the ninth inning or later. His last was July 19, 2009 against the Twins.
A big (little?) reason the Tigers are having trouble with the Astros is their inability to retire tiny human Jose Altuve. The miniscule Houston second baseman is 6-for-9 with three stolen bases, two runs scored and an RBI in the two games.
Rajai Davis has been regressing to the mean and doing so with a vengeance. His OPS in April was .840. In May, his OPS dropped to .727. June has been a dumpster fire for Davis; an OBP of .258 and an OPS of .617. Since the start of May, Davis is hitting .250/.283/.396 in 42 games. Davis should not be playing against right-handed pitching of any kind and why he's batting anywhere but ninth in the order at this point is a mystery.
Phil Coke has not allowed a run in his last five outings, covering 5 1/3 innings. Coke has a 3.18 ERA - four runs over 11 1/3 innings - in his last 12 appearances. Ten of those appearances were scoreless.
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