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Astros 3, Tigers 2: Another day, another futile performance from the offense

Sorry this recap is late, but I fell asleep in the sixth...

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Houston Astros Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Beau Brieske’s third major league start was another decent effort, but once again a defensive mistake and a quiet offense sank the Tigers’ chances as the Astros make it two in a row with a 3-2 victory on Friday night.

The Tigers got another taste of a tight, well-pitched contest in this one, the kind of game that good teams win more than they lose. The offensive failures never gave them a chance to overcome a rocky second inning.

Javier Báez slashed a single past first baseman Yuli Gurriel with one in the top of the first, but Miguel Cabrera and Jeimer Candelario grounded out to end the inning. Likewise, Jose Altuve greeted Beau Brieske with a sharp single in the first, but was stranded despite a couple of deep fly balls. The game was ultimately decided in the very next inning.

Harold Castro led off with a single, and Jonathan Schoop walked as Luis Garcia struggled with his command. The Tigers then got back-to-back infield groundouts that moved Castro around to score the game’s first run. With Schoop on third, Akil Baddoo also grounded out to end the top half of the frame. Still, the second inning lead was a rarity for the 2022 Tigers, and it seemed like a promising start, particularly as Garcia was scuffling a bit.

Brieske quickly got a lazy fly ball out, and then carved up Kyle Tucker on three pitches. After a couple of belt high fastballs down the middle that were lifted deep into the outfield in the first, Brieske was showing better command, mixing in all four pitches. Jeremy Pena stepped to the dish and battled Brieske into a 3-2 count. Brieske won the battle, as Pena lifted a high fly ball weakly into left field, but the Tigers lost the war. Austin Meadows was scratched prior to the game with an illness, and Willi Castro got the start in left field, where he has little experience. Pena’s ball froze Castro initially, and by the time he started charging in, Javier Báez had already recognized the situation and was running all out toward Castro and tried to make a sliding, over the head, catch. He just missed, and Pena stood at second base instead of Brieske being out of the inning.

Giving away outs so often leads to disaster, and so was the case here. Chas McCormick smoked a 1-0 fastball at the top of the zone to centerfield for a two-run shot, and the Astros led 2-1. They led 3-1 moments later when Martin Maldonado went the opposite way, putting a solo shot just over the wall in right. Brieske walked Altuve after a lengthy at-bat, and finally got out of the inning on a Michael Brantley ground out, but was already at 50 pitches by the time the inning ended. Just like that the Tigers went from being out of the inning to giving up three runs. They pitched and played a clean game from that point on but couldn’t overcome the deficit.

The Tigers got a run back in the top of the third when Robbie Grossman led off with a walk. Báez reached on a grounder that Alex Bregman bobbled and then held, and Cabrera lifted a deep fly ball to center, both runners tagging to advance 90 feet on the play. Again, with runners in scoring position, they couldn’t come up with a hit, but a Candelario ground out allowed Grossman to score from third to make it 3-2.

And then...not much happened. Brieske settled in, and while he still struggled with command of his slider and missed some opportunities for strikeouts, he got seven straight outs from there, and did a nice job snuffing an Astros’ rally in the fifth, getting Yordan Alvarez to fly out and then striking out Yuli Gurriel to end his night.

Brieske’s line was 5 IP, 3 ER, 3 BB, 3 SO, 2 HR. The lack of an error on Pena’s routine fly ball was maybe home cooking, but hey, he did surrendered back-to-back jacks after Willi Castro’s gaffe.

That was pretty much ballgame at that point. Alex Lange, Jacob Barnes, Andrew Chafin, and Joe Jiménez held the Astros off the board despite a little traffic, but the offense couldn’t do a thing with Garcia after he settled in. A pair of singles and a pair of walks were all that managed, and after Garcia departed after seven inning of work, Phil Maton and Rafael Montero had no issues slamming the door in the eighth and ninth as the Astros retired the final 21 Tigers in order.

The Tigers record now stands at 8-17. Eduardo Rodriguez takes the mound on Saturday against another tough lefty in Framber Valdez at 4:05 p.m. EDT.