While the outcome was not as bad as one might have expected in a game featuring a future Hall of Famer backed by the hottest offense in baseball against a newly-promoted minor leaguer with a league-bottom offense, the Houston Astros still managed to sweep the Detroit Tigers with a 5-1 win on Wednesday.
Things looked destined for disaster when Alex Bregman took Gregory Soto deep to left field for his ninth home run this month in the game’s second at-bat, putting the Astros up 1-0. Another Houston run came across in the top of the second after former Tigers ace Justin Verlander managed an easy 1-2-3 inning.
Down 2-0 after two innings, Soto gave way to first-baseman-turned-pitcher Nick Ramirez, who allowed only a single in the top of the third. To reward the pitching staff’s first scoreless inning of the night, JaCoby Jones took Verlander 436-feet deep to left field for his third home run of the season, bringing the Tigers to within a run.
Houston scored again in the next half inning on a Robinson Chirinos sacrifice fly, plating Aledmys Diaz. George Springer made a bid to extend that lead even further, but Christin Stewart took away a two-run home run to get Ramirez out of the third inning.
Verlander struck out the side immediately after, but the Tigers threatened to even the score in the bottom of fifth when Josh Harrison drilled a two-out triple to deep left-center field. Brandon Dixon and Jones walked to load the bases before Niko Goodrum scorched a 105.8 mile-per-hour liner that Diaz snared before any damage could be done.
The top of the sixth got ugly; errors from Ronny Rodriguez and Jeimer Candelario and a bobbled relay from Josh Harrison to potentially end the inning allowed the Astros to take a 4-1 lead.
The Tigers would not get another hit nor draw another walk from there on out, and a Jake Marisnick triple to score Chirinos in the top of the eighth inning brought the score to its final. Verlander dominated in his second-career start as a visitor at Comerica Park, allowing one run over seven innings on two hits while striking out nine Tigers.
Nick Ramirez, who came into Wednesday following a solid four-inning performance during Saturday’s nightcap in his Tigers debut, showed again that he might become a reliable piece for the team’s bullpen (or rotation at this point). The lefthander followed Soto’s opening duties with four innings, allowing two runs (one earned) and three hits while striking out two.
Additionally, Joe Jimenez threw a flawless ninth inning in an effort that will hopefully boost his shoddy confidence.
The Tigers’ offense remains clueless. Niko Goodrum and Jeimer Candelario have been invisible, as the pair combined to go 0-for-8 in the contest and are a combined six for 60 with 16 strikeouts in the last seven games. If the team expects to score runs, they will need these two to find their way back on base.
Jeimer Candelario was optioned to Triple-A Toledo after Wednesday’s game.