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Tigers 4, Astros 3: Old foe Kinsler strikes again

The Astros showed their spots as they couldn't close the door on one the American League's best teams.

Bob Levey

The Astros stared down the 2013 American League Cy-Young award winner Saturday, and for at least the first inning they didn't blink. Houston jumped out a quick two-run in lead in the first. George Springer and Jon Singleton hit back-to-back singles to put two on with one out. They would both move up a base on a throwing error, setting the runners at second and third. Jason Castro would proceed to strike out, it was the first of his three strikeouts for the day. Then Alex Presley came to bat, an odd choice for the five hole as he was on a 1-for-16 stretch coming into the game. But, Presley came through. The Astros' center fielder flipped the fifth-straight fastball he faced from Max Scherzer right back up the middle to plate two.

Both Scherzer and spot-starter Brett Oberholtzer settled in after the first inning. Scherzer's next six inning would be scoreless as he struck out 13 Astros hitters in the game and walked just one. Oberholtzer was impressive in his own right, he pitched like a man who doesn't want to be in Oklahoma City anymore. Obe' gave up one run over 6.1 innings - scattering five hits, walking two, and striking out four.

The Tigers' one run off Oberholtzer came in fifth after Torii Hunter lead off the inning with a single. The bottom of the Tigers lineup, Bryan Holaday and Eugenio Suarez would come through with singles to push Hunter across the plate.

The Astros attempted to match that run put up by the Tigers. Jose Altuve added to his American League leading stolen base total, now up to 34. Altuve and Marwin Gonzalez pulled off a double steal in the bottom of the fifth. Setting the table for Springer and Singleton with two runners in scoring position and one out. But, both would strikeout to end the inning.

The Tigers would threaten in the seventh. Oberholtzer's day was done after walking Nick Castellanos and Holaday reached base on a bunt-single. Josh Zeid replaced the Astros' starter, and Eugernio Suarez greeted him with a single to load the bases. Rajai Davis hit a grounder close to third that took Matt Dominguez within one step of the bag. But, Dominguez didn't force the runner at third. Instead, he threw a bullet to Jason Castro to perceive the 2-1 Astros lead. Ian Kinseler stepped into box next and fisted a ball into shallow left-center. L.J. Hoes streaked from his position in front of the Crawford Boxes to make a diving catch to keep the Astros in the lead.

Moving to the eighth, Bo Porter called on Chad Qualls with the heart of the Tigers lineup coming to bat - Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and J.D. Martinez. Which brings up the question of when should one to use a 'closer'? Is your closer is the best reliever to be used when the situation calls for it? Is he the guy that is intended to get the twenty seventh out? Either way, Qualls would work around a J.D. Martinez double to finish of the eighth. The Astros' best reliever did his job against the Tigers' best hitter.

The question about closers be came all too important in the ninth as Jerome William replaced Qualls for the ninth. Two of the first three batters would reach base on Williams - Castellanos and Suarez singled to put runners on first and second. Williams made a nice play coming off the mound to get Rajai Davis' sac bunt attempt. There were now two outs and runners on second and third. Ian Kinsler stepped in. Williams fell behind quickly 2-0 to the former Ranger. The next pitch was belted just left of the spot where Brad Ausmus hit his famous home run in 2005 playoffs. A home run. Kinsler put the Tigers up 4-2.

Alex Presley continued his offensive night by hitting a solo home run to put the Astros within one. But, it would not be enough. Scott Feldman squares of against Drew Smyly in the rubber game at 1:10 pm CT.