Astros make opening statement vs. Tigers
HOUSTON -- Jed Lowrie rocketed a go-ahead two-run double in the fifth to supply Astros ace Dallas Keuchel all the run support he'd need to pick up his 11th straight home win in a 5-1 series-opening victory over the Tigers.
Keuchel surrendered one run and stranded runners in scoring position in the fourth and fifth innings while striking out eight -- including Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera twice. He got Tigers leadoff hitter Rajai Davis three times, including on a full-count slider in the fifth for a big second out with runners at first and second looking to add to a one-run Tigers lead.
"The second or third time through, I was kind of throwing some offspeed for strikes," Keuchel said. "I've been working on a breaking pitch backdoor. That was kind of getting me ahead of guys. Especially with that lineup, I can't afford to get behind a bunch of guys. That's what I've been doing the last couple outings, with some walks and some hard-luck hits. I just wanted to attack the zone today, and I was able to do that."
Cabrera finished 0-for-3 with a walk in his return from the disabled list, and Tigers starter Alfredo Simon held the Astros' bats in check until the fifth. Marwin Gonzalez and Jason Castro knocked a single and a double to lead off the inning, and they scored on Lowrie's double.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Lowrie's green light: Lowrie had a 3-0 green light in the first with two on and one out, but he lifted Simon's cutter to left for an out. In the fifth, once again ahead, 3-0, with two on and two out, Lowrie took the next pitch -- a splitter -- then sat on Simon's 3-1 fastball, and drove it to the gap in left-center to plate the go-ahead runs.
"We play loose, and we play with a lot of freedom, and Jed is hitting in the middle of the order to be productive," said Astros manager A.J. Hinch. "If it's on 3-0, it's great, if it's with two outs, a couple times the last week or so, he's delivered. His [decisions], what pitches to swing at, are generally pretty good and near the top on our team. I know he was frustrated he didn't contribute in the first, but he certainly came through in the end."
Said Simon: "I just want to put the ball in play. He put a good swing on the ball. I don't want to walk him and then try to face [Carlos] Gomez." More >
Simon says wait: Simon fought through a groin injury for a third straight start but again didn't look like himself, this time battling command for much of the night. He survived with an array of offspeed pitches, at a deliberate pace, that Houston's hitters struggled to hit for authority until the doubles in the fifth. Simon threw just 54 of his 102 pitches for strikes.
"He was having a little trouble commanding the strike zone," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He threw a lot of balls, it was almost 50-50 balls and strikes, but he somehow seemed for the most part to almost wiggle out of it and really kept us in the ballgame. But his pitch count started climbing because of the balls that he was throwing." More >
Keuchel's Korner: In the five starts since the debut of his cheering section along the left-field line, Keuchel is 5-0 with a 0.73 ERA and 48 strikeouts. His command was pinpoint early, as he racked up four of his eight strikeouts in his first three innings while only throwing eight balls. With his 11th home win, he matched Zack Greinke, the last Major League pitcher to win his first 10 home starts en route to starting 11-0 at home in 2011.
"It was definitely nice," Keuchel said of being back home. "I don't know, really, why we haven't won on the road. It's not like we're playing bad. It's just one of those things. If we knew how to play more complete on the road, we would. It's just one of those things where we play better at home right now. We're going to have to figure it out before too long, but it's nice to be back home with the support of the fans and the city." More >
Tigers threaten but can't break it open: Two singles sandwiched around a Cabrera walk sent home Ian Kinsler in the fourth for Detroit's lone run, but the Tigers missed chances to add on when Keuchel looked vulnerable. J.D. Martinez thought he had a walk to load the bases following Victor Martinez's RBI single, but a called strike on a 3-1 pitch set up a costly strikeout ahead of a Nick Castellanos double play. After Davis' strikeout in the fifth, Kinsler had a 2-0 count go for naught before hitting an inning-ending comebacker to leave runners at second and third.
"We were one hit away in two or three different spots from putting up a crooked number," catcher James McCann said. "[Keuchel's] pitch count was up to 70-something in the fourth or fifth inning. Unfortunately, we weren't able to keep that pitch count going. He ends up settling down and getting seven innings."
Hinch won a managerial challenge with one out in the third inning when Jose Altuve was called out on Castellanos' throw on a bouncing grounder to third. The call was overturned, and Altuve was ruled safe.
"He's not fast. Let's be honest. He just has a lot of triples. It's starting to become a life of its own. It's a triple watch every day. It's not double digits yet, so it's not worth talking about. It's incredible. ... There are some fast guys around the league wondering if they can catch him." -- Hinch, on Evan Gattis' ninth triple of the season
"He just doesn't give in. He's got pitches he throws to both sides of the plate. He works down in the zone. And he keeps nibbling." -- McCann, on former college teammate Keuchel
Tigers: Justin Verlander, who has held opponents to seven earned runs on 25 hits in 29 innings over his last four starts, pitches the middle game of the weekend series on Saturday night. Verlander is 2-0 with a 2.05 ERA in four career starts against the Astros.
Astros: Collin McHugh toes the rubber looking for his 14th win of the season to match Keuchel. He's won seven of his last 10 starts while allowing three earned runs or fewer in nine of them.
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