Maxwell's homer caps four-run frame against Tigers
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Rick Porcello gave the bevy of scouts at Joker Marchant Stadium something to watch and the Tigers something to build on with four scoreless innings and six strikeouts before Detroit's bullpen eventually held off a late Astros charge, in an 8-5 win on Monday.
Not only did Porcello become the first Tigers starter to post four innings of work, but he cruised through his final pitches -- retiring six of his final seven batters. Half of his strikeouts came on pitches other than his fastball and sinker, including two strikeouts of ex-Tiger Carlos Pena and a called third strike on a curveball to Justin Maxwell.
More than a half-dozen scouts were in attendance. Some of them were there to do their regular Spring Training reports, not specifically on Porcello, but the Tigers' surplus of starters and Porcello's presence in trade rumors for most of the offseason was bound to draw a following. His effort didn't disappoint.
Alex Avila's two-run single in the opening inning put the Tigers on top for good, but two bases-loaded double plays kept them from breaking the game open. Once Maxwell's two-run homer powered a four-run sixth inning, the Astros were back in it.
Those escapes also helped limit the damage for Astros starter Jarred Cosart, who walked three of the first six batters he faced and four total over two-plus innings. He gave up three runs -- his first runs of the spring -- on four hits in his first spring start following two relief appearances.
Once the Astros rallied, Matt Tuiasosopo rebuilt a cushion in the eighth by doubling in Tyler Collins and scoring on Avila's sacrifice fly, setting up Brayan Villarreal for the save.
Avila, who hadn't had a base hit since the first game of the spring, rebounded well, while Torii Hunter went 2-for-4. Rick Ankiel went 1-for-2 to improve to .467 on the spring.
Up next for the Astros: Manager Bo Porter, who spent the previous two years as third-base coach for the Nationals, returns to Viera, Fla., on Tuesday when the Astros meet the Washington Nationals at 12:05 p.m. CT at Space Coast Stadium. Right-hander Lucas Harrell, the Astros' Pitcher of the Year in 2012, will make this third start and should be able to be stretched to four innings.