A four-game series against the team with the worst record in the AL has done very little to slow down the Detroit Tigers.
Facing Lucas Harrell, however, just might.
The Tigers look to make it three straight against the Houston Astros on Saturday night and prevent Harrell from winning a fourth consecutive start.
Detroit (17-11) has won seven of eight, hitting .294 with 12 homers and averaging 6.0 runs while the pitchers have a 2.57 ERA.
That stretch includes a 7-3, 14-inning win over Houston (8-22) on Thursday before Alex Avila's two-run homer in the ninth provided the difference in a 4-3 victory a day later.
Avila has homered on each of his last two hits in 10 at-bats over the past three games. He's 3 for 22 over his last seven and hitting .179 on the season.
"Hopefully that will get him going, get some confidence going," manager Jim Leyland said. "That was a big one."
The Tigers' confidence may be in for an unexpectedly big test against Harrell (3-2, 3.60 ERA), who has been credited with the Astros' only two wins over the past 10 games.
That's part of a brilliant stretch by the right-handed sinkerballer, who is 3-0 with a 1.82 ERA over his last four starts. He's induced eight of his major league-leading 10 ground-ball double plays in that span.
Harrell got three while yielding one run and scattering eight hits in 6 1-3 innings to beat the New York Yankees 9-1 on the road Monday.
"I've been working on trying to get more ground balls and inducing early contact," Harrell told the team's official website. "It makes it easy for me when you know you can get a ground ball."
Harrell has no record with a 3.00 ERA in two games - one start - against Detroit, but those came as a rookie with the Chicago White Sox in 2010.
That was also the last time he faced Miguel Cabrera, who is 0 for 4 against Harrell.
The Tigers slugger is among baseball's leaders with a .368 average and 30 RBIs. He's managed at least one hit in all but one of his last 17 games, a stretch that includes batting .385 while driving in eight runs during a nine-game road hitting streak.
Max Scherzer (3-0, 4.02) is scheduled to get the ball in search of a third straight winning start. The right-hander, though, has allowed eight runs and 13 hits with 16 strikeouts in 12 1-3 innings over his last two outings.
He showed improvement Monday, yielding three runs while fanning 10 in 7 1-3 innings of a 4-3 victory over Minnesota.
"Honestly, it was my curveball," Scherzer told the team's official website. "That's a pitch I've really been working on."
Scherzer, though, is still seeking his first road win despite compiling a 1.29 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 14 innings over his first two outings. He has no decisions since both games were decided in extra innings, thanks in part to the offense backing him with four total runs.
Scherzer lost his only appearance at Minute Maid Park on Aug. 22, 2009, giving up four runs in five innings. He went 1-1 with a 7.36 ERA in two meetings that season.
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