Thursday, December 8 2022

The Houston Astros, armed with the best record in the American League, reminded the Detroit Tigers of their supremacy in the simplest way possible. They didn’t blast home runs, nor did they strike out double-digit batters.

But the Astros executed plays at a first-class rate.

The Tigers, known for a sloppier style of play, lost 7-0 in the first of three games against the Astros at Comerica Park. Two runners were thrown out at home plate in the first three innings, and left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez allowed five runs across five innings.

Opposing Rodriguez, Astros left-hander Framber Valdez struck out eight batters and blanked the Tigers over nine innings, throwing 72 of 107 pitches for strikes. He has completed 24 consecutive quality starts. Superb defense, highlighted by the first and third innings, helped Valdez keep his streak alive, but the 28-year-old dominated on his own.

Valdez recorded the first complete game shutout of his five-year MLB career.

Houston Astros catcher Martin Maldonado, right, tags Detroit Tigers center fielder Riley Greene out at home plate in the first inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Monday, Sept. 12, 2022.Houston Astros catcher Martin Maldonado, right, tags Detroit Tigers center fielder Riley Greene out at home plate in the first inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Monday, Sept. 12, 2022.

Houston Astros catcher Martin Maldonado, right, tags Detroit Tigers center fielder Riley Greene out at home plate in the first inning of a baseball game in Detroit, Monday, Sept. 12, 2022.

The Tigers (54-87) have been shut out for the second straight game and the 21st time this season. Detroit is tied with the 1973 New York Yankees and 1976 Chicago White Sox for the most shutouts in a single season among American League teams since the designated hitter was implemented in 1973.

The 2022 Tigers are five shutouts shy from tying the franchise record, set in 1904.

Right-handed reliever Will Vest threw 31 pitches in the ninth inning and conceded two runs on a hit-by-pitch and three singles.

You can’t always go home

In the first, Riley Greene drew a leadoff walk, reached second base on a wild pitch and moved up to third base on a throwing error by catcher Martin Maldonado. He was later thrown out at home on Javier Báez’s broken-bat grounder to first baseman Yuli Gurriel.

Eric Haase singled with two outs, but Spencer Torkelson flied out to deep center field to end the inning. Torkelson hammered the ball 416 feet to center field with a 105.5 mph exit velocity, a home run in 24 ballparks but not Comerica Park.

The Tigers tried to score again in the third, but once again, the Astros’ defense shut them down. Willi Castro ripped Valdez’s first-pitch curveball for a double to right field and appeared to score on Báez’s single. The ball from Báez shot through the infield and rolled toward charging left fielder Yordan Alvarez.

Alvarez fired a bullet to Maldonado, who applied the tag. Initially, home plate umpire Cory Blaser ruled Castro safe at the plate. The Astros challenged the call on the field, and the replay review overturned the decision to keep the Tigers from scoring.

Valdez, who has a 2.51 ERA in 27 starts, allowed six hits and one walk, but the Tigers couldn’t score against him. He logged seven swings and misses with his curveball, three with his changeup and two with his cutter.

Astros’ offense from another planet

Four pitches into the game, the Astros controlled a 1-0 lead against Rodriguez.

Jose Altuve, Houston’s leadoff hitter, singled on a second-pitch fastball and stole second base for his 17th steal in 18 attempts this season. An ensuing single from Jeremy Pena — a weak hit on a second-pitch cutter that got past a sliding Báez — scored Altuve from second base.

Pena stole second base and came around to score on Alex Bregman’s single for a 2-0 advantage.

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (57) pitches in the second inning against the Houston Astros at Comerica Park.Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (57) pitches in the second inning against the Houston Astros at Comerica Park.

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez (57) pitches in the second inning against the Houston Astros at Comerica Park.

The Astros continued to pick on Rodriguez in the third inning, as three straight batters reached safely with one out: Pena (single), Alvarez (single) and Bregman (walk). With the bases loaded, Kyle Tucker grounded into a double play. The Astros increased their lead to 3-0, though, since the Tigers retired Tucker running to first base before tagging out Bregman advancing to second base.

A defensive miscue from the Tigers helped the Astros tack on a pair of runs in the fifth inning. To get there, Pena doubled and Alvarez singled to put runners on the corners. Bregman grounded the ball to third baseman Ryan Kreidler, beginning a rundown between third base and home plate.

While the Tigers threw the ball three times — from Kreidler to Haase to Kreidler to Torkelson — Pena managed to stay between third and home long enough to let Alvarez and Bregman move into scoring position. The Astros scored two runs for a 5-0 lead on Tucker’s groundout and Gurriel’s 36th double of the season.

Rodriguez gave up five runs on 10 hits and one walk with two strikeouts over five innings in his fifth start since returning from the restricted list. For his 88 pitches (57 strikes), the 29-year-old used 41 cutters (47%), 29 four-seam fastballs (33%), 12 sinkers (14%) and six changeups (7%).

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers shut out yet again in 7-0 loss to Houston Astros

Source: Yahoo Sports

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