The Tigers had some chances early, but the breaks went Houston’s way, and Framber Valdez settled in to spin a complete game shut out on six hits, with 107 pitches thrown. That was the 21st time the Tigers have been shut out in 2022.
Houston didn’t take long to draw blood in this one. Jose Altuve led off with a single, stole second base, and scored on a Jeremy Pena ground ball before Eduardo Rodriguez had thrown five pitches. Pena immediately stole second as well, and after Rodriguez struck out Yordan Alvarez, Alex Bregman followed with a ground ball back up the middle to score Pena as well. Kyle Tucker and Yuli Gurriel both lined out to end the inning.
Riley Greene led off with a walk in the bottom half. Willi Castro struck out, but Greene advanced to third on a wild pitch and then a throwing error from Martin Maldonado. Unfortunately, Greene would be cut down at home by Gurriel as he went home on contact trying to score on a Javy Báez ground ball. Eric Haase followed with a single to keep the scoring opportunity alive, but a hard hit fly ball to left center field off the bat of Spencer Torkelson unluckily went for the final out despite travelling 416 feet. Ah Comerica. At least the hard contact remains plentiful for the rookie first baseman.
Both teams went in order in the second, but the Astros put together another scoring chance in the top of the third. With one out, Pena and Alvarez singled, and Bregman walked to load to the bases. Fortunately they’d only get one run as Tucker grounded into a double play, with Pena scoring in the process.
The Tigers were caught trying to score again in the bottom half when Willi Castro doubled with two outs. Báez pulled a ground ball through the left side, but left fielder Alvarez cut down Castro at the plate to end the inning. Initially, Castro was ruled safe, but replay confirmed he was tagged a couple inches before hitting home plate.
Also a little frustrating was Rodriguez’s difficulty collecting quick innings against the Astros. He got the first two in the fourth, but back-to-back singles from Chas McCormick and Martin Maldonado set up another scoring opportunity for Houston. E-Rod got Altuve to fly out to center field, but he was already at 70 pitches when the inning ended. Of course, had two plays at the plate gone otherwise, he would’ve had some run support to work with as well. Against the Astros, even letting them get up a run early feels like it turns the pressure up to 11.
The Astros came back with more heat for Rodriguez in the fifth. Pena led off with a double to left, and Alvarez followed with a single the same direction to move Pena to third. Ryan Kreidler picked an Alex Bregman grounder and fired home to Haase to cut down Pena trying to score, so it was good to return the favor in that regard. However, Alvarez went first to third on the play and scored on a Tucker ground out to make it 4-0. Yuli Gurriel doubled in Bregman to left, and just like that Rodriguez had completely imploded again. 5-0 Astros.
Rodriguez yanked a changeup down on the plate, and that went for a wild pitch rather than a passed ball. Gurriel advanced to third. Trey Mancini finally grounded out to Báez to finally end the inning. The Tigers quickly went 1-2-3 in the bottom half.
That would end Eduardo Rodriguez’s day. 5.0 IP, 5 ER, 10 H, BB, 2 SO. Rodriguez didn’t even pitch that badly. He wasn’t helped by Haase’s inability to get called strikes around the edges, where E-Rod likes to work. Still, despite getting a decent number of whiffs, he just had little with which to put away Astros’ hitters, who do the two-strike approach really well. Again and again they stayed back, shortened up, and hit the ball on a line somewhere when deep in counts, while the Tigers beat Valdez’s sinker into the dirt and swung over the curve. Too much hard contact against Rodriguez, and he didn’t help the cause by failing to hold runners in the first inning. Haase doesn’t have a particularly good throwing arm, but he didn’t get much of a chance in either case.
Jason Foley took over in the sixth. He got a quick ground out from McCormick, popped out Maldonado, and got an Altuve ground out for the second clean inning of the night from Tigers’ pitching. The Tigers got a Riley Greene single in the sixth and no more.
Garrett Hill came on in relief in the top of the seventh, showing off some delivery changes and hitting 96 mph repeatedly. Hill is raising his hands over his head and he goes into the windup, and looked to be getting down the mound a little more aggressively. He popped up Pena, then pitcher around Alvarez a bit, walking him. Hill bounced back to jam Bregman and get a lazy fly ball, and then fell behind Kyle Tucker before dusting him with a pair of fastballs Tucker couldn’t find.
Torkelson started the bottom half off with another rocket off of Valdez, but for the second time it was playable by an Astros outfielder, going right to Alvarez in left. Candelario popped out. Kreidler also smoked a hard line drive, and that also went right to McCormick in center field for an out. Contact was pretty good all game long for Torkelson who hit three balls hard and came away with nothing to show for it. Batted ball luck was not.
Hill quickly set the Astros down 1-2-3 in the top of the eighth, looking quite good in the process.
Valdez cruised into the bottom of the eighth giving up a one-out single to Victor Reyes, but striking out Riley Greene for his seventh punchout on the night. Willi Castro grounded out on Valdez’s 96th pitch, as the lefty just pounded the strike zone and racked up quick outs all game long.
Will Vest struggled with his command in the top of the ninth, allowing two more runs, but this one was out of hand already. The only question was whether Valdez would come out in the ninth.
Dusty Baker decided to ride with his lefty and give him the chance to close this one out, and he did so in much the same fashion the whole game had seen. He struck out Báez, and then Haase smoked a line drive right to Pena at shortstop, and Torkelson drilled a drive about 400 feet to center field, and Mauricio Dubon, in as a defensive replacement, had it all the way.
Small comforts, but Eric Haase continued his solid hitting of late, collecting a pair of singles. Torkelson hit the ball 105.5 mph, 106.1 mph, 107.1 mph, and 105.4 mph, and had nothing to show for it despite drilling the baseball all game long.