Astros Fall to the Tigers in the 14th Inning


There was a lot of baseball tonight. You got two 7th inning stretches to go along with one of the best full staff pitching performances the Astros have put together this season. A large part of that were the two pitchers called up for tonight’s game, Jordan Lyles and Dallas Keuchel.

Jordan Lyles (Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports)

After all was said and done, Keuchel ended up throwing 78 pitches, which was only one less than the starter Lyles, in 4.1 innings. A leadoff double by Austin Jackson who was then moved to third base on a Torii Hunter ground ball spurred the beginning of the end for the Astros and Keuchel.

With one out, Porter correctly had Keuchel intentionally walk stud hitters Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. On paper that made sense, but then Don Kelly drove in Jackson with a single to right field to chase Keuchel. Matt Tuiasosopo then drove in Cabrera and Fielder with a double off the last available Astros reliever, Jose Cisnero. Jhonny Peralta‘s sacrifice fly then made it 7-3 and completed the scoring for the night.

So this is how it feels to get a good start from a pitcher other than Lucas Harrell? Honestly it has not been something Astros fans have seen much so far this season. And that is one of the reasons why Houston was 8-20 entering tonight’s game against the Tigers.

After getting knocked all over the park in Spring Training, I did not think we would be seeing Lyles on May 2nd. However, it is not a surprise that the Astros would have to make a change in the rotation a month into the season. But more importantly, in his last few starts for Oklahoma City, Lyles seemed to be figuring some things out.

With Brad Peacock only averaging a little over four innings per start, a change had to be made and Lyles earned the right to be promoted. But that was not the only change made as Keuchel was also recalled from AAA.  On paper it seems like the Astros now have four “long relievers” in their bullpen with Keuchel, Jose Cisnero, Travis Blackley, and Paul Clemens.

At this point it is less about using them as long relievers, and more about the fact that they are the relief pitchers having success. After Lyles got the Astros off to a nice start, Blackley and Clemens handled the sixth and seventh innings without incident. Unfortunately, Wesley Wright was not as lucky in the eighth inning.

Based on the amount of firepower in Detroit’s lineup, it is only a matter of time each game before they bust out. It seemed like this was going to happen when Hector Ambriz walked Hunter to start the eighth inning. But he quickly eliminated the chance of damage by getting Cabrera to hit into a double play.

With two outs, Bo Porter brought in Wright to face Prince Fielder to finish off the eighth inning. Wright promptly hit Fielder with his first pitch and then allowed a double to Victor Martinez. Thanks to Rick Ankiel having some trouble picking up the ball in right field, Fielder was able to score on the error. Ankiel did later redeem himself by throwing out a runner at home plate to end the 11th inning.

Jose Veras then replaced Wright and promptly struck out all four batters he faced to get the Astros into extra innings. Once we hit the 10th inning, Keuchel took over. He certainly proved his value as a long man tonight as he kept the Astros in the game and gave them ample chances at securing a walk off win. The problem is just that the Astros could not really get any offense going or even put anybody on base for that matter.

Jason Castro  just keeps on having success in the third spot in the order. Robbie Grossman started off the night with a leadoff double, and then scored on Castro’s two run home run. A fourth inning solo shot by Carlos Pena then accounted for the final run for the Astros.

In his first start of the season, Lyles only needed 79 pitches to get through five innings of work. For the most part Lyles was economical with his pitches, only getting into trouble as he needed 24 pitches to get out of the third inning as he gave up RBI singles to Torii Hunter and Miguel Cabrera.

Lyles struck out six Tigers and also finished his night strong before giving way to the bullpen. Nursing a 3-2 lead, Lyles gave up a two out single to Cabrera, but then he retired Prince Fielder to end the inning without incident. For his final line, Lyles struck out six batters while giving up six hits and allowing one walk.

Blackley (1.1 innings) and Clemens (.2 of an inning) then kept up the positive momentum started by Lyles. Neither pitcher allowed a base runner, and both struck out two batters each. They are combining to the give the Astros a solid left/right tandem for the middle innings out of the bullpen.

Other than the two home runs, Houston really was not able to get much going against Tiger starter Rick Porcello. The bright spot again was Grossman who also singled tonight and is starting to look more and more comfortable as a leadoff hitter and in the major leagues.

Let’s see how the Astros bounce back later on tonight as Bud Norris takes the hill for the second game of the series. After the workload the bullpen had in the series opener, the onus is certainly on Norris to pitch deep into the game.