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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Five key plays in series finale vs. Astros

DETROIT — There’s a reason that Dallas Keuchel was the Arkansas Razorbacks’ top starter in college, ahead of Drew Smyly.

One former teammate outdueled the other Thursday afternoon, as Keuchel beat the Tigers for the second straight year, and the Astros snapped Detroit’s eight-game win streak with a 6-2 win.

The win helped the Astros (11-24) stave off a four-game sweep in the series. Keuchel was the winning pitcher the only time the Astros beat the Tigers last season, as well.

Detroit (20-10) came into the game with the best record in the big leagues, off to a start that was tied for the second-best in franchise history. Only the 1984 Tigers (25-4) started faster through the first 29 games. Detroit began the 1961 and 1978 seasons with a 20-9 record, as well.

Five key moments in the game:

Second inning >>
The frame probably should’ve been over when Austin Jackson hit a one-out grounder toward second base. But he hustled down the line and beat out the relay throw on the attempted double play by the Astros, keeping the inning going. Nick Castellanos made the Astros pay for not turning it, doubling high off the wall in right field to put the Tigers up 1-0.

Fourth inning >> Victor Martinez (above) clubbed his seventh home run of the season deep into the seats in left field. For comparison’s sake, Martinez didn’t hit his seventh home run until July 3. In 2011, he didn’t hit his seventh until Aug. 15. [CLICK HERE for video]

Fifth inning >> George Springer hit his first career home run to cut the Tigers’ lead in half, then a walk and a single set up Jose Altuve’s go-ahead double at the end of a nine-pitch at-bat. [CLICK HERE for video] Springer’s home run was the first allowed by a Tigers pitcher since May 2, ending a span of 55 1/3 innings pitched. Carlos Corporan would add a solo homer two innings later, and Matt Dominguez hit a two-run shot in the ninth. [CLICK HERE for more on the Altuve-Smyly at-bat]

Sixth inning >> Drew Smyly got himself into one final jam in the top of the sixth, putting two on with one out. Evan Reed — who’d gotten a one-pitch double play in relief of Robbie Ray Tuesday night — needed four pitches to rescue the starter this time, getting the speedy Springer to ground into an inning-ending 4-6-3 double play.

Seventh inning >> It looked like the failure to turn a double play might cost the Astros again, as they couldn’t convert a one-out Nick Castellanos grounder into an inning-ender, extending the Tigers’ threat. With runners on the corners, Torii Hunter pinch hit for Bryan Holaday, but struck out on a checked swing.


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