The depletion of the Astros roster to start the season is taking an unmistakable toll.
The part of the lineup that had to be filled with the absence of Jose Altuve and Michael Brantley has become a black hole. Whether you consider those replacements to be Mauricio Dubon or David Hensley, they both came up empty in a game-winning situation, leaving the extra runner on second in the bottom of the tenth inning, giving the Tigers another shot at the Astros bullpen.
Meanwhile, through five games, no Astros starter has managed to complete a quality start, leaving the bullpen gasping for air. Tonight, usually reliable Hector Neris allowed the 11th-inning game-winning homer that sealed the Tigers' 7-6 win.
Lance McCullers is looking better with every middling performance by an Astros starter.
Tonight it was Hunter Brown who couldn’t make it through the fifth inning, allowing four runs in 4.2 innings with six hits and three walks.
After striking out two Tigers in the scoreless first inning, Brown ran into some two-out trouble in the second. With one man on, three consecutive Tigers hits resulted in two runs after a single by catcher Eric Haase.
The Tigers added two runs in the fifth inning, again after two were out. Hunter Brown walked two, followed by a Javier Baez RBI single. Brown walked the next batter, loading the bases. leading to his substitution by Phil Maton. Maton walked his first batter, accounting for the Tigers’ fourth run of the game.
However, the Astros exploded in the bottom of the fifth. Mauricio Dubon led off with a walk, followed by a check-swing single by Martin Maldonado, sending Dubon to third. Jeremy Pena hit in Dubon with a fielder’s choice groundout, which brought Jose Cisnero in to pitch for Matt Boyd, who promptly hit Alex Bregman with a pitch.
Next batter: Yordan Alvarez. Alvarez took a 91 MPH changeup down the middle 435 feet to right center to tie the score. It was Alvarez’s 100th career home run.
However, after a scoreless inning by Ronel Blanco with two strikeouts in the sixth inning, the Tigers retook the lead in the seventh on a Riley Green solo-homer to the train tracks off Bryan Abreu.
The Astros took the game into extras with some two-out magic of their own. Alex Bregman got his second hit of the season and got to second on a Yordan Alvarez groundout that looked like a 3-6 double play. But the first baseman’s throw to second hit Bregman in the back, giving the Astros one more chance. Jose Abreu then swatted a ball to the wall in left field, just out of the reach of left fielder Meadows, scoring Bregman to tie the score.
Both teams failed to advance the extra runner in the 10th inning. In the eleventh inning, Hector Neris was asked to stop the Tigers again as he did in the tenth. Instead, Matt Vierling hit a line drive over the center field fence to give the Tigers their winning runs.
Jordan Alvarez managed to edge the Astros closer in the bottom of the eleventh with a fielder’s choice RBI. Still, it wasn’t the heroics we’ve come to expect from the big man, as the Astros go to 2-3 for the year, losing to the previously winless Tigers, who more than doubled their season run total in this game alone.
One positive note beside the massive Alvarez bomb. Bregman’s last three at-bats were singles. He seems to be finally zeroing in his swing.