Jarred Cosart ( Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports)

Astros travel to Motor City for four with Tigers


The Astros head to Detroit having lost four of their last five games. Meanwhile, the Tigers have won five straight. It’s a David versus Goliath matchup between two teams at opposite ends of the American League food chain.

In what could be considered a reunion of sorts, Tigers’ skipper Brad Ausmus will be managing against his former team for the first time. His third base coach, Dave Clark, spent the previous nine seasons coaching in the Astros organization.

J.D. Martinez (Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports)

The newest member of the Astros, Darin Downs, spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons in the Detroit organization. But the most interesting reunion with former teammates could be that of our old friend J.D. Martinez.

Shortly after the Astros cut ties with J.D. this spring, he landed a minor league deal with the Tigers. After blasting 10 homers and driving in 22 runs in just 17 games with AAA Toledo, Martinez was called up to join Ausmus and Clark in Detroit. In his two weeks with the big league club Martinez has appeared in seven games, including four starting assignments in leftfield.

 

Martinez seems to have rediscovered himself in Detroit. J.D. told MLB.com’s Jason Beck that playing for a winning team has helped him to relax and have fun.

It’s a lot different feeling. When you’re winning, everything’s fun. When you’re losing, everyone’s pressing. It’s hard to play that way. You have to play the game relaxed, and on this team you have that. Everyone knows their job, what they’re going to do. It’s just fun.

You want to win and you’re scared that if you don’t get a base hit, you’re not going to win. Here, I want to get [runs] in obviously, but you’re not as nervous. There’s so many good players that you know that if you don’t, it’s not the end of the world. There’s so many good players here that people can pick you up, pick up your slack.

Martinez should be pretty relaxed when reigning Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer takes the mound Monday night against Jarred Cosart and the Astros. No one on the Astros current roster has more than ten career at-bats against Scherzer, but a couple of guys have had some success. Dexter Fowler is 3 for 10 with 3 RBIs and Carlos Corporan has hit two homeruns in only five at-bats against Max. Cosart has never faced the Tigers.

Brett Oberholtzer, still looking for his first win of the season, gets the start for the Astros in game two. Brett will be opposed by fellow lefty Robbie Ray. Filling in for the injured Anibal Sanchez, the 22-year old Ray will be making his big league debut. This could turn into a rough day for the Astros. We all know how they tend to struggle against pitchers they have never faced before. Throw in the extra adrenaline surge that comes with a big league debut and the smart money will be on the Tigers tomorrow.

Game 3 of the series pits Brad Peacock against Rick Porcello. Peacock will be trying to hang on to his rotation spot, given the inevitable return of Scott Feldman. Porcello has won three straight and has issued only four walks in 32 innings this season.

Thursday’s matinee finale features another pair of left-handers. Dallas Keuchel looks to rebound from Saturday’s loss to the Mariners and Drew Smyly gets the start for Detroit.

Middle infielders Jose Altuve and Jonathan Villar go into the series swinging hot bats for the Astros. Outfielder Torii Hunter and DH Victor Martinez have been doing the same for Detroit.

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Tags: Houston Astros J.D. Martinez

  • Bob Gordon

    No question the Stros face a tough series here. Any team going into Detroit would have to acknowledge that. But the Tigers might be surprised by how tough the Astros are. This last series vs Seattle showed me a team better than its record, a team which scored 20 runs in 3 games. This invites a conventional response along the lines of “well, it was the Mariners”.

    The Mariners indeed are no powerhouse…but the main reason for that is subpar offense. Mariner pitching is actually pretty good, with starters ERA and bullpen ERA each ranking 5th in the AL individually, and 4th overall. So…the Astros offensively beat the tar out of one of the better pitching staffs in the league. That’s not the sign of “weak opponent”, but rather that the Houston lineup is starting to improve.

    Translate to Detroit: the Tigers’ starters are best in the AL (2.71 ERA). Unrealistic to expect to get much from them. BUT…Detroit bullpen ranks 13th (5.31 ERA). There’s opportunity there. The key to scoring runs will be quality ABs in the early going. Maybe won’t be able to get a lot of hits on these starters, but drive the pitch counts up, and get into the Tiger bullpen as early as possible.

    Of course, there’s the flip-side…Astro pitching has to keep the Tigers at bay long enough for that “get to their bullpen” strategy to work. I would note that current Houston pitching is (at least a little bit) better than ERA would indicate. Lucas Harrell is gone. Chapman and Valdes are gone. Cosart, Oberholtzer, and Keuchel have all shown that, when playing their best, they can pitch well against anybody. And Comerica is a pitcher-friendly park.

    IF the offense of the last few days shows up. IF they can work the pitchcounts to get the starters out before the end of the 6th. IF Houston starters play toward the top of their performance range. IF Sipp/Downs truly improve bullpen performance.

    Yeah, that’s a lot of if’s to string together, I know. But there’s some reason to hope that the Stros can do it, at least in a couple of the upcoming games. Houston is a big underdog in this series…but I think they’ve got a better chance to split it than many would give them credit for.

    • astrosince1975

      Is the offense finally starting to heat up? Or did they just have a couple of good games at home. Hopefully they are heating up, otherwise it will be hard to compete in Detroit. I guess we will soon find out.

  • Larry Luttrell

    Greg, I can’t stand anymore the Astros r going to be in the records books again this year another 100 loss season. What in the hell is wroing with this team is the manager & coaches or is the players. Who is it to blame? I getting sick of this. The farm teams r doing a lot better than the Astros r. They can’t beat nobody the pitching good but the hitting is a pipe of sh-t if u know what I mean, the pitching has a Bad ERA I can’t figure that out. Plus their hitting sucks too. so what can the Astros do to be like the Biggio & Bagwell days back so the Astros can start winning some games. It’s driving me nuts. we need help some how & somewhere. what u think Greg..

    • astrosince1975

      Thanks for reading, Larry. It is definitely frustrating. I was hoping to see some improvement this year. I think the quote from J.D. Martinez says a lot about the Astros situation. Players on a losing team have trouble relaxing and continue to press all of the time. The team needs someone who can change the overall attitude of the young players. Bo Porter may or may not be that person. We are still trying to find out.