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Streaking Tigers pounce early, pile on Astros

July 29, 2016

DETROIT -- The Tigers welcomed the Astros to Comerica Park by putting up Minute Maid Park-type numbers, crushing Houston pitching for nine runs on 11 hits through the first two innings en route to a 14-6 win Friday night.Detroit's fourth consecutive win, and sixth in eight games, left the two

DETROIT -- The Tigers welcomed the Astros to Comerica Park by putting up Minute Maid Park-type numbers, crushing Houston pitching for nine runs on 11 hits through the first two innings en route to a 14-6 win Friday night.
Detroit's fourth consecutive win, and sixth in eight games, left the two teams a half-game apart as they try to chase down the Blue Jays and Red Sox for the American League Wild Card spots -- with Houston 1 1/2 games back and Detroit 2 back. Their gap on Friday's scoreboard widened in a hurry after José Altuve's first-inning homer built a 2-0 Houston lead.
Much of Detroit's rally came off starter Collin McHugh (7-7), who retired just five of the 15 batters he faced. Nick Castellanos posted RBI singles in each of the first two innings before Tyler Collins' three-run homer gave the Tigers a 9-2 lead after a seven-run second.

Second helping: Tigers strike back, bury Astros
"I think there were some balls left over the middle of the plate," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "We've seen [McHugh] sharper. He's obviously a better pitcher than he showed tonight. We just took advantage of a couple balls that weren't where he wanted them."

That was enough for Matt Boyd (2-2), who labored at times to hold down Houston's offense but gave up three runs on four hits over five innings. Jake Marisnick hit a third-inning solo homer, but Carlos Correa's drive to center later that inning fell short at the fence.

Justin Upton added a three-run home run for Detroit in the sixth before James McCann provided a pinch-hit homer, his second drive out to left in as many games, in the eighth.

"It just seemed like every ball that [McHugh] left out over the plate they did some damage with," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "They did a good job situational hitting. They put up a big number in the second inning. We couldn't recover. A lot of pitches to hit, a couple well-timed hits, a couple hits that found holes. They did about everything right against Collin tonight."
First-inning bounceback: Just as a shutdown inning from a pitcher can be important for a team that just rallied, so can a comeback inning immediately after a pitcher gives up early runs. Once Castellanos singled home Cameron Maybin, the Tigers had two runs and four hits through five batters to erase Houston's brief 2-0 lead.

"It means a lot," Boyd said. "Going out there, the last thing you want to do is put your team in a hole. And for them to come back and tie the game up, it makes it a lot easier to go out there and keep attacking."
McHugh rocked: McHugh's solid run of pitching came to an end with a thud. After posting a 2.49 ERA in his previous seven starts, the right-hander was rocked for eight runs and 10 hits in just 1 2/3 innings in his worst start since his first outing of 2016. That's when he was hit for five earned runs and three hits in one-third of an inning April 6 at the Yankees.
"They didn't really let me up for air," McHugh said. "We made good pitches sometimes, and they found ways to get the bat to it -- and every mediocre, borderline pitch we made, they made us pay for it. Obviously, it's not the way I envisioned this start to go." More >

Collins' contribution: All but one of Detroit's 10 hits off McHugh were singles, producing runs but not a defining blow. That came from Collins, who jumped on a changeup from reliever Chris Devenski and drove it out to right for his three-run homer. Collins tripled and scored in the fifth to put the Tigers into double digits.

"The better he plays, the more we have to think about keeping him [after J.D. Martinez returns from the disabled list]," Ausmus said. "It's a simple fact. He seems to be learning to slow the game down a little bit."
Altuve stretches streak: Altuve's homer stretched his road hitting streak to 20 games and his road on-base streak to 36 games. It's the longest road hitting streak by an Astros player since Lance Berkman's 23-game run in 2009, and the longest by an AL player since Chicago's José Abreu in 2014. Since May 1 (35 games), Altuve is hitting .482 on the road with a .528 on-base percentage.
"I know how it is. I'm a Dolphins fan. So every week, I either love everybody or want everybody fired. I get it. But it's our job as athletes, as the people playing, to stay even-keel, because we're the ones that have to do it. We can't get too high. We can't get too low." -- Castellanos, on riding the up-and-down emotions of the Tigers' season
Astros first baseman Marwin Gonzalez, who extended his hitting streak to 12 games, left the game in the seventh inning with right hand soreness. He is considered day to day.
Hinch successfully challenged a call in the eighth inning, when Marisnick was awarded first base on a throwing error by third baseman Castellanos as first baseman Andrew Romine whiffed on the swipe tag.

Astros: Right-hander Mike Fiers (7-4, 4.69 ERA) will take the mound for Saturday's 6:10 p.m. CT game against the Tigers at Comerica Park. Fiers is 4-1 with a 4.10 ERA in his last nine starts, during which the Astros are 7-2. He worked seven innings Sunday to beat the Angels.
Tigers:Justin Verlander (10-6, 3.64) will try to extend Detroit's winning streak to five and his personal winning streak to four when he takes the mound Saturday at 7:10 ET. Verlander hasn't lost since June 26, allowing six earned runs on 21 hits over 33 2/3 innings in five July starts.
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Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast.