DETROIT -- Rare are the nights when a member of the Astros' starting rotation, which has been perhaps the best in baseball the entire season, has a wobbly performance. It was nothing that three homers and a lockdown job by baseball's best bullpen couldn't overcome.
The streaking Astros used homers by Jose Altuve, Tony Kemp and Tyler White and five scoreless innings from their bullpen to beat the Tigers, 5-4, on Tuesday night at Comerica Park for their ninth win in their past 10 games.
"You've got to outscore the other team somehow," White said. "They put up a good inning [four runs in the fourth] in the middle of the game, but we held the lead and the bullpen did an unbelievable job."
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The Astros, winners of 16 of their last 20 games, maintained a three-game lead for first place in the American League West over the A's, who beat the Orioles, 3-2, on Tuesday for their fifth win in a row. There are 17 games remaining on the Astros' schedule.
Rookie lefty Framber Valdez, making his fourth career start, lasted just four innings, allowing four runs, four walks and five hits while throwing 92 pitches, including 41 in the Tigers' four-run fourth. Relievers Will Harris, Joe Smith, Hector Rondon, Collin McHugh and Roberto Osuna shut down Detroit, striking out nine batters.
"We have a lot of talented guys down there," Harris said. "Obviously, we've added a lot of talent with our September callups and the guys we traded for. We have a lot of very capable relievers, and it's nice to have that because we can give a guy a rest today. [Ryan] Pressly has been throwing a lot and has a lot of appearances, so it gives [manager] AJ [Hinch] the luxury of resting guys and not have to whip them too hard."
The Astros jumped out to a 5-0 lead on the strength of their three homers. Altuve hit Jordan Zimmermann's first pitch of the game over the left-field fence for his 12th homer, Kemp hit a two-run homer to right in the second and White hit a two-run homer to left in the fourth.
"Altuve was talking about swinging at the first pitch from last night when I texted the lineup to the guys," Hinch said. "It was an auto-swing from the very beginning. When it happens, everybody in the dugout knows it's coming. The home run just kicks a lot of energy into the dugout and puts [the opponent] on the defensive. I think Zimmermann danced around the strike zone a little bit because of the ambush that happened in the first inning."
The Tigers took advantage of a bad-hop, two-out RBI single off the bat of Dawel Lugo that bounced over shortstop Carlos Correa's head in the big fourth against Valdez, capped by JaCoby Jones' three-run homer to cut the lead to 5-4.
"It happened fast, to go from a very comfortable outing where [Valdez] is initiating soft contact on the ground, getting a ton of ground balls, to an inning that got away from him that ends up [requiring 41] pitches to get out of there," Hinch said. "It's unfortunate for him because he had a comfortable lead and got into trouble and the one big swing got him."
Houston's bullpen took over, though, with Harris striking out three in the fifth, Rondon getting a big strikeout to end the seventh and strand a pair and Smith (sixth), McHugh (eighth) and Osuna (ninth) posting 1-2-3 innings.
"The way the game started, it didn't look like it was going to be a bullpen today, but they put some swings together and got a lucky bounce off the ground on the ground ball to Correa, and then you look up and it's a one-run game," Hinch said. "No margin for error for any of those guys who came in, and each guy did their part."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
In the fourth, Valdez gave up a one-out double to Niko Goodrum, who moved to third with two outs. After walking Ronny Rodriguez, Lugo hit a fairly routine grounder to Correa, who was left helpless when the ball hit a rock in the dirt and bounced over his head. Goodrum scored, and Jones followed with a three-run homer.
"It was something that happens in the game," Valdez said. "It was something I couldn't control. I knew it was a bad bounce and all that, but I knew I had to refocus right after."
HE SAID IT
"He really knows what he's doing out there. He can pitch. He feeds off the hitters' aggressiveness in the ninth inning, which is always important for a closer. He can take miles per hour off the ball with the big changeup. His ball moves. He takes care of his arm very well to where he's very fresh on the days he pitches. He's a dominant closer for a reason." -- Hinch, on Osuna, who is 8-for-8 in save chances with the Astros and has 17 overall this year
MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY
An overturned call in the seventh inning took a run off the board for the Astros. With the bases loaded and two outs, White hit a hard grounder that bounced off third baseman Jeimer Candelario, who recovered to throw to first. White was called safe, but the replay official determined the ball hit the fielder's glove before White's foot touched base. The call was overturned, and the inning was over without a run being scored.
Right-hander Gerrit Cole (13-5, 2.86 ERA) will start for the Astros in Wednesday's 12:10 p.m. CT series finale against the Tigers at Comerica Park. Cole already has a career-high 251 strikeouts, which ranks second in the AL behind teammate Justin Verlander's 258 strikeouts. Lefty Daniel Norris (0-3, 5.47 ERA) will start for the Tigers.