The rebuilding Tigers entered the series having lost 27 of 36 games since the All-Star break, and they featured three rookies plus three others with fewer than 450 career plate appearances in their starting lineup Monday.
While facing such an inexperienced group would seem to favor the Astros, there is an inherent difficulty in pitching against players wholly unfamiliar to the staff.
Four Houston pitchers combined to allow 14 hits Monday in the Astros' 5-4 win, but they also limited Detroit to 1-for-8 batting with runners in scoring position while stranding 11 baserunners total.
How catcher Robinson Chirinos performed in calling the game against a foreign batting order could work as a blueprint for Houston pitchers over the remaining three games of the series, starting with a Tuesday night meeting.
"Robby did a good job of helping the pitching staff navigate some guys that we don't have a ton of experience against," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "Sometimes they're swinging at pitches that you don't expect them to, sometimes they're taking pitches.
"Chirinos being able to slow things down and get Will (Harris) through his inning, get Hector (Rondon) through his inning, get (Roberto) Osuna through the inning with runners on base (was key).
"I'm not sure we had too many clean innings, but we had a lot of innings where we made big pitches to get the second and third out of the inning. That was critical."
Right-hander Aaron Sanchez (5-14, 5.79 ERA) will get the start for the Astros on Tuesday. He is 2-0 with a 3.86 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 16 1/3 innings over three starts with Houston following his acquisition from Toronto at the trade deadline.
Sanchez did not factor in the decision after allowing six runs on seven hits and two walks over 5 1/3 innings at Oakland on Thursday, his first substandard outing with the Astros.
He is 3-0 with a 1.29 ERA over eight career appearances (five starts) against the Tigers, including a 3-0 win on March 30 when he twirled five scoreless innings while allowing three hits and three walks with six strikeouts at Rogers Center.
Right-hander Spencer Turnbull (3-11, 3.75 ERA) will start opposite Sanchez for the Tigers. He is fifth among all rookies in strikeouts (106) and ninth in innings pitched (112 2/3).
Turnbull took the loss in his previous start, allowing three runs on six hits and two walks with eight strikeouts over five innings against Seattle on Thursday. This will mark his first appearance against the Astros.
Frustration got the better of two members of the Detroit delegation Monday, with both designated hitter Miguel Cabrera and manager Ron Gardenhire ejected by plate umpire Alfonso Marquez in the fifth inning.
The Tigers are striving to compete down the stretch of a trying season, and after dropping two of three in a competitive series at Tampa Bay last weekend, they showed Monday they are still ready to fight.
"It's just a few things that happened between the lines," Tigers bench coach Steve Liddle said. "If something happens during the course of the game, it happens. This time, it cost us a player and a manager. It's just one of those things that happens."
--Field Level Media