Astros-Tigers Preview

The Associated PressMay 8, 2014

Drew Smyly has adjusted nicely to being a starter, a role in which he's flourished when given the opportunity over his two-plus seasons with the Detroit Tigers.

He'll seek another solid performance Thursday as Detroit looks to extend its winning streak to nine while completing a four-game sweep of the visiting Houston Astros.

Smyly (2-1, 2.45 ERA) logged 18 starts as a rookie before making all 63 of his appearances in 2013 and his first two this season out of the bullpen.

Manager Brad Ausmus inserted him into the rotation April 18, and Smyly had the most impressive of his three starts Saturday, giving up two hits and striking out six in seven scoreless innings of a 9-2 win over Kansas City on Saturday.

His previous turn in the rotation was skipped due to a scheduled off day and a rainout.

"Smyly was outstanding," Ausmus said. "I think he had nine days since his last start. He was throwing strikes (and) he seemed to be using all his pitches, which is important as a starter. He pitched really well."

The left-hander is 3-1 with a 2.53 ERA in eight starts dating to 2012. He'll look to help the Tigers (20-9) stay hot after Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez homered in Wednesday's 3-2 victory.

Martinez is batting .368 with three homers and 11 RBIs during a 10-game hitting streak, while Cabrera is hitting .368 with three home runs and 18 RBIs over his last 13.

"You can't set Victor Martinez up - he's just too good at getting the barrel to the ball," Ausmus said. "I don't think it matters what pitch you throw, he's generally going to find a way to do it."

Detroit has outscored opponents 51-18 during its winning streak, though it scored only twice Monday and had just five hits Wednesday. Dallas Keuchel will look to keep the Tigers in check in the finale and help the slumping Astros (10-24) end a five-game slid.

Keuchel (2-2, 3.96) went at least six innings for the fifth straight start Saturday, but he gave up four runs in six innings of a 9-8 loss to Seattle.

He had allowed only two hits through five innings and gave up his first run in the sixth. Keuchel then was charged with three runs in the seventh after walking the bases loaded without recording an out and being removed.

"I just felt kind of sluggish," Keuchel said. "There are a few games every once in a while where you feel sluggish out of the gate, and I was thankful to make it through the first couple unscathed.

"It feels like a train hit me in the seventh. It's not like me to walk three guys in a row."

The left-hander walked six over 10 innings in one start and one relief appearance against the Tigers last season, going 0-1 with a 7.20 ERA.

Houston has lost 10 of the last 11 meetings with Detroit and will look to provide some offense for Keuchel, possibly with the help of shortstop Jonathan Villar after he was out of the starting lineup Wednesday with an injury to his throwing hand.

Manager Bo Porter said he wanted to keep Villar out as a precaution, but he entered as a pinch-runner in the ninth and stole second and third before Matt Dominguez struck out to end the game.