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Tucker finds perfect time for first homer

Pinch-hitter goes deep off closer Soria to force extra innings in series opener
Special to MLB.com

DETROIT -- One swing of the bat gave the Houston Astros the life they needed to remain in Thursday's series opener against the Detroit Tigers. Ultimately, it wasn't enough to win the game as the Astros lost, 6-5, in 11 innings, but the team's ability to hit home runs in any moment has continued to give Houston an edge over the AL West, and much of baseball.

Preston Tucker's clutch home run in the ninth was the latest example of just what the Astros are capable of.

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DETROIT -- One swing of the bat gave the Houston Astros the life they needed to remain in Thursday's series opener against the Detroit Tigers. Ultimately, it wasn't enough to win the game as the Astros lost, 6-5, in 11 innings, but the team's ability to hit home runs in any moment has continued to give Houston an edge over the AL West, and much of baseball.

Preston Tucker's clutch home run in the ninth was the latest example of just what the Astros are capable of.

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"I'm really happy with the timing of these home runs," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said prior the game. "We've hit them when we've been down, hit them to separate ourselves in close games, we've hit them in key moments against good pitchers. It's a part of our offense, it's not entirely our offense."

As a team, the Astros are hitting .230, yet they lead MLB with 62 home runs. Of those, 33 home runs have either given Houston the go-ahead advantage or occurred during a late-and-close situation, the former producing 22 of those homers.

Tweet from @astros: Going #BOOM for first MLB home run to tie it up? Well played, @PrestonTucker20. http://t.co/ha8olcraJ7 #BamBam pic.twitter.com/lfdMce7DVx

Tucker, 24, came into Thursday's game batting .286 in 33 plate appearances with four doubles, three RBIs, and four walks. A pinch-hitter in his first season playing at the Major League level, Tucker hadn't yet hit a home run. Asked to hit for shortstop Jonathan Villar in the ninth inning, Tucker, ranked as Houston's No. 15 prospect by MLB.com, stepped up in a big way against Tigers closer Joakim Soria, who was perfect in 13 save opportunities to date.

As good of a swing as he got on it, Tucker wasn't expecting the ball to carry like it did -- especially since he had never played in Comerica Park. To get that first home run out of the way, though was a good feeling for Tucker after he had been counting the plate appearances without one.

"I knew I hit it hard and started running around the bases. It felt good, especially in the situation I was in," Tucker said. "They put me in the game to hit a home run, that's why I pinch-hit. Unfortunately, it was dampened by the fact that we didn't win, but that approach I had felt pretty good. The next opportunity that I get, hopefully I carry that over."

Tucker's pinch-hit home run was the first by an Astros player since Rick Ankiel on April 17, 2013, in Oakland against the Athletics. Tucker also became the first Astro to hit his first Major League home run in a pinch-hit role, since Brandon Barnes did it on Aug. 13, 2012, against the Chicago Cubs.

Catherine Slonksnis is a contributor to MLB.com.

Houston Astros, Preston Tucker