The Detroit Tigers ended a successful road trip on a down note with a 6-4 loss in Houston, dropping two of three to the Astros. Detroit should be thrilled with seven wins in nine games on the road, but disappointed in being badly outplayed for most of the series by the Astros. Houston was one out away from taking all three games.
Starter Scott Feldman (W, 4-5) pitched into the seventh to earn the win for for the Astros, holding the Tigers to two runs and seven hits, striking out four in six plus innings. The Tigers were able to push across a pair of runs against the Astros' third pitcher of the day, Jose Veras. But Tony Sipp came on to record a rare four out save, his first of the season mailing down the series win.
Drew Smyly's (L, 4-7) string of four straight quality starts was snapped by the Astros. The Detroit starter took the loss, pulled after allowing four runs on eight hits and two walks in just 2 1/3 innings. Chad Smith stopped the bleeding, tossing 2 2/3 innings of scoreless, one hit relief. But Pat McCoy and Blaine Hardy each allowed a run in their relief outings, giving the Astros their two run margin of victory.
The unstoppable Jose Altuve led the way with three hits and two stolen bases for the Astros. Matt Dominguez also had three hits for the winners. George Springer reached base four times and drove in a run, while L.J. Hoes and Jon Singleton both drove in two runs for Houston.
Detroit was outhit 14-9 on the day. Alex Avila hit his fifth home run of the season for the Tigers. Torii Hunter added an RBI double, Nick Castellanos capping off Detroit's scoring with a two run triple.
The series can be summed up in the Astros' success in shutting down the Tigers' sluggers. Over the three games, Miguel Cabrera (0-for-13) and Victor Martinez (1-for-12) combined for an 1-for-25 series, reaching base just four times on a single and three walks. The Tigers aren't going to win many games when the bats of Cabrera and Martinez go M.I.A.
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Chad Smith: Entered the game with two on and one out in the third. Smith gave up a single to the first batter he faced, then went on to strand the inherited runners and retire the next seven Astros in order. Smith would ultimatley pitch 2 2/3 innings of scoreless baseball in relief of Smyly.
Alex Avila: Reached base twice with a walk and his first home run in five weeks.
J.D. Martinez: Two hits for the ex-Astro, giving him five in the series. Martinez wrapped up the road trip hitting .359 (14-for-39).
Nick Castellanos: The Rookie had a pair of hits, including a huge two RBI triple in the eighth.
Drew Smyly: Came into today's game with an excellent 1.44 ERA in four June starts. It's now (a still very good) 2.63 in five. Smyly was unable to keep his pitches down, rocked for eight his and four runs just 2 1/3 innings. Worse was his complete inability to hold runners, the Astros running wild when Smyly was on the mound.
Pat McCoy: Entered the game in the sixth in relief of Smith, retiring the first two batters he faced. McCoy then found big trouble, proceeding to load the bases. Presley reached on an infield single, Altuve bouncing a double down the left field line. An intentional walk to Springer backfired when McCoy's unintentional walk to Jon Singleton extended the Astros' lead to 5-2. That run came up huge when the Tigers rallied for two in the eighth.
Austin Jackson: A rough two months continued with a brutal game in the lead off spot. In a top of the order performance all too reminiscent of 2013, Jackson was 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
Miguel Cabrera: With an 0-for-4 day, Cabrera ended the three game series 0-for-13.
Blaine Hardy: The Tigers were back in the game, down 5-4 in the bottom of the eighth. But Hardy gave the Astros an insurance run on a Carlos Corporan double and Jon Singleton's RBI single.
Interesting lineup changes from Brad Ausmus today. The obvious difference was sitting his hottest hitter, Ian Kinsler. Kinsler entered today's game hitting .472/.525/.833 (17-for-36) with three home runs and ten RBI on the road trip. But he hasn't had a day off in over two weeks, Ausmus being on record earlier this week saying he was going to rest his second baseman soon. A three game series with the Oakland Athletics looming on Monday, Kinsler received the day off, save for a late game pinch-hitting appearance. Andrew Romine took over for Kinsler, getting only his second start since June 13 and first this season at second base.
Austin Jackson was back in the lineup today. But for the first time this season, Jackson started a game from the lead off spot. It may have been a way to try to wake up Jackson's bat, being his offense as all but disappeared over the last two months. After appearing to be at home batting lower in the order by posting a .911 OPS in April, in the two months since Jackson is hitting only .225/.280/.302, for a .582 OPS. Today Jackson was hitless in four at-bats, striking out in three.
FSD's Mario Impemba quoted Ausmus as saying "Torii is most comfortable in the two spot." That's where Torii Hunter was again today, batting second despite going 2-for-17 since coming off the DL and his season OBP of .282. I'm sure Hunter's career 9-for-21 career mark against Astros starter Scott Feldman played a part in his batting so high in the order. Ausmus' hunch paid off when Hunter doubled in the Tigers' first run in the third (MLB.com video).
The first inning was a brutal one for Drew Smyly and the Tigers. The Astros scored three runs in the bottom of the first on four hits, a sacrifice fly and a wild pitch. The inning included two stolen bases - one on a botched pick off of Jose Altuve, Eugenio Suarez just plain missing an on-target throw from Miguel Cabrera. The second was George Springer swiping third without a throw.
Third inning, one out, one run in for the Astros and the the bases loaded, the Tigers pulled off an unorthodox 6-2-5 double play. Eugenio Suarez charged Alex Presley's chopper, throwing home for the force and the second out of the inning. Alex Avila then noticed Jonathan Villar had strayed too far from third base, firing to Nick Castellanos for the third out, bailing Detroit out of further trouble.
Ex-Tiger Darin Downs replaced Scott Feldman in the seventh with one on and no one out. He walked Avila, then extinguished the rally before it could ger started, retiring the next three Tigers in order, including strikeouts of Andrew Romine and Jackson. Downs now has a 2.33 ERA for the Astros.
Nick Castellanos drove in a pair of runs when he tripled into the left field corner with two out in the eighth off ex-Tiger Jose Veras (MLB.com video). He should have run the Tigers out of the inning, as Castellanos was going to be dead to rights at third base. But Jonathan Villar just plain held onto the relay, apparently assuming Castellanos would hold up at second. Sometimes you get lucky when you're aggressive.
Blaine Hardy actually retired the apparently unstoppable Altuve with a runner on third and one out in the eighth. Hardy was on his way to pitching around him, but Altuve popped up when swinging away on a 3-0 pitch. Unfortunately, Hardy still allowed the run to score on Singleton's two out single.
STREAKS AND STATS:
Jose Altuve can be anointed a Tiger Killer after his remarkable series. The Tigers could not stop him at the plate or on bases. In the three game series, Altuve was a one-man wrecking crew from the lead off spot - 9-for-14 with six stolen bases, three runs scored and an RBI.
Altuve has eight stolen bases in his last four games. Via the Freep, Altuve became the first player in at least 100 years to have three consecutive multi-steal games against the Tigers in a single series. The only way Altuve could be stopped was by Miguel Cabrera hoisting the miniscule second baseman up on his shoulders before the game.
J.D. Martinez singled in the second and eighth innings, giving him at least one hit in all three games against his former team. Martinez has a base hit in 17 of his last 18 games.
Alex Avila went deep in the fifth, the solo shot was his fifth of the season (MLB.com video). But it was also his first home run in over five weeks. Avila went yard in back-to-back games May 20-21, then the power went out. In the 28 games between home runs, Avila slugged just .270 in 89 at-bats. The one saving grace was Avila's ability to draw a walk, carrying a .320 OBP over the same amount of time.
Kinsler got a pinch-hitting appearance with two out in the eighth. Astros reliever Tony Sipp struck him out with the tying run on third, snapping both Kinsler's eight game hitting streak and his multi-hit game streak at seven.
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