(SportsNetwork.com) - A little over halfway through the 2014 campaign, already the Houston Astros find themselves in the deepest hole of any team in the majors, yet they are still settling in for a battle against visiting Detroit at Minute Maid Park this afternoon.
Houston appeared to be heading toward a potential three-game win streak on Saturday, but the team surrendered three runs in the top of the ninth and came up short in the bottom of the frame, suffering the 4-3 defeat at home.
With the setback, Houston is not only 12 games under .500, it is also 16 games out of contention in the AL West.
Alex Presley led off the ninth for the Astros with a home run to right, but the following three batters made it easy for a Detroit squad that is now 4 1/2 games ahead of Kansas City for first place in the American League Central standings.
Putting the Tigers on top late in Saturday's meeting was Ian Kinsler, who connected on a three-run home run to left-center, scoring Austin Jackson and Eugenio Suarez. Kinsler finished with two hits, as did Bryan Holaday, while Suarez logged three hits to raise his average to an even .300. Kinsler is now the first Tigers player since 1960 to register seven straight multi-hit games.
"Sometimes the heart of the lineup's going to scuffle," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "We need other guys to step up. Kinsler provided, obviously, the big boost offensively. We had our chances, we couldn't capitalize off [Astros starter Brett] Oberholtzer, but luckily we got a couple baserunners in the ninth and Kinsler came up large."
Relievers Phil Coke and Joe Nathan posted the win and save, respectively, for the visitors after starter Max Scherzer lasted seven full innings, allowing two runs on seven hits and striking out 13.
Coming out on the losing end for the Astros was Jerome Williams, the fourth pitcher of the game for the hosts. He was the one who surrendered the long ball to Kinsler before closing out the ninth.
"With Kinsler, I just wanted to attack and trying to get him to roll over a popup," said Williams. "A cutter was up and he hit it out.
"I can't blame nobody but myself. I can't dwell on that. I had the opportunity to go out there and save the game. I take full responsibility for it."
Starter Brett Oberholtzer, who was called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City prior to the game to start in place of eight-game winner Dallas Keuchel, who has inflammation in his left wrist, allowed one run on five hits and two walks over 6 1/3 innings.
Presley, Marwin Gonzalez and Jose Altuve each had two hits for the hosts, but it was the former who drove in all three runs.
Left-hander Drew Smyly is heading to the hill for the Tigers this afternoon, hoping to put together back-to-back wins. The Arkansas product managed to snap a two-game slide on Tuesday against Texas, but it was just his second victory overall since the first week of May.
Against the Rangers, Smyly gave up just a single run on five hits and a walk, fanning five in six innings of action.
One of the six defeats for Smyly in 2014 came versus this same Houston squad back on May 8 when he permitted three runs on five hits and three bases-on- balls in 5 1/3 innings. For his career, Smyly is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA in three games against the Astros.
Now on with his fourth team in the last three seasons, Scott Feldman is slated to take on the Detroit batters as the right-hander seeks his first victory in more than month. The Hawaii native has just one victory in his last 10 outings, that coming against Kansas City on the road on May 26.
More recently, Feldman lasted six innings against Atlanta at home, giving up three runs on four hits, two of those being home runs, while striking out five in the setback.
Feldman has gone up against Detroit 11 times in his career, making five starts, but he has a record of 0-3 and an 8.16 ERA to show for his efforts.
Detroit, which easily won the 2013 season series with the Astros by a count of 6-1, is now ahead this time around with four wins in six chances.