DETROIT -- Doug Fister responded to his first loss of the season with another dominant performance. It helped that he was facing one of the major league's most downtrodden teams.
Fister limited the Houston Astros to two second-inning runs and struck out seven in seven innings as the Detroit Tigers cruised to a 6-2 victory at Comerica Park on Tuesday. Fister lasted just three innings at Washington in his previous outing, but improved his record to 5-1 and dropped his ERA to 3.06 against an Astros team that has lost six straight.
"Just being able to keep the ball down and locate it in and out," Fister said of the differences between the two starts. "The biggest thing is the defense came up big for me tonight and played great. It's not an easy thing to stay on an even keel. I fight myself every pitch and make the fine-tune adjustments when I need to."
The powerful Tigers offense awoke after Astros starter Lucas Harrell (3-4) shut them down the first four innings. Detroit took the lead with three two-out runs in the fifth, capped by Andy Dirks' go-ahead double. It tacked on two more runs in the sixth and Miguel Cabrera, who had two extra-base hits and scored twice, smacked his eighth homer in the seventh.
Detroit's bottom two hitters, Don Kelly and Ramon Santiago, drove in the club's first two runs. Kelly was making his third straight start in centerfield in place of injured Austin Jackson (hamstring) while Santiago was making his first appearance since May 5.
"We just go out there and try to contribute any way we can," Kelly said. "It's good for the team and for us to get in there. All you want to do is win and any way you can help out is big."
J.D. Martinez had two doubles and an RBI for the Astros, who have lost all six of their games against the Tigers this season by a combined score of 50-12. They complete the season series on Wednesday afternoon.
Houston dropped to 10-30, its worst start after 40 games in franchise history. Its previous low after 40 games was 13-27 in 1967 and 1975. Only four other teams since 1990 had 10 or fewer wins through the season's first 40 games.
Manager Bo Porter said his team doesn't lack motivation.
"You should be motivated every day you're in the big leagues," he said. "This is an opportunity to play the game you all love. Each and every day you come to the park, you should be honored to be here and respect the game to the point where you're motivated to play every day, despite whatever it is that's going on around you."
Harrell gave up just one hit until the Tigers rallied from a two-run deficit. After Harrell retired Victor Martinez and Alex Avila, Omar Infante singled and stole second. He scored on Kelly's opposite-field single.
Santiago tied it with a double to left-center. Dirks then gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead with a ground-rule double over the right-center field wall.
"Early on, he did a good job of attacking the center of the plate and allowing his sinker to move," Porter said of Harrell. "The inning he got in trouble, he went to the edges a little bit and this is definitely a lineup where you don't want to put guys on base."
Detroit scored two runs in the sixth for a 5-2 lead. Martinez singled home Cabrera, who led off the inning with a double. That knocked out Harrell. Prince Fielder scored from third with Infante batting when reliever Travis Blackley threw a wild pitch.
Cabrera's solo shot off Hector Ambriz nudged the lead to 6-2 in the seventh.
NOTES: Houston's top offensive threat, second baseman Jose Altuve, was placed on the bereavement list on Tuesday because of his grandmother's death in Venezuela. He flew back to his native country at the urging of Porter. Altuve, who must stay on the list at least three days, is expected to return to the club this weekend and start against Pittsburgh on Saturday. ... Astros ace Bud Norris was still experiencing soreness on Tuesday after leaving Monday's game with back spasms while warming up for the sixth inning. Porter is hopeful Norris will make his next scheduled start against Pittsburgh on Sunday. ... Detroit's Jhonny Peralta, who leads all American League shortstops with a .326 average, was not in the lineup because manager Jim Leyland wanted to rest him. Peralta will return to the lineup on Wednesday. ... The Tigers announced on Tuesday that their April 23 postponement against Kansas City will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader on Friday, Aug. 16. ... Harrell induced Cabrera and Fielder to hit into double plays, giving him a major-league best 12 this season.