Tigers-Astros Preview


Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and the rest of the Detroit Tigers are off to a better start than a year ago when they won the AL pennant.

With their slugger coming off one of the best performances of his career and their ace on the mound, the visiting Tigers try to complete a four-game sweep of the lowly Houston Astros on Sunday.

Cabrera homered twice and matched a career high with six RBIs as Detroit (18-11) won for the ninth time in 11 games, 17-2 on Saturday. Victor Martinez had four RBIs and Torii Hunter added four hits for the Tigers, who pounded out 21 hits en route to their highest-scoring game since an 18-2 rout of the Chicago White Sox on Sept. 4, 2011.

"(Cabrera's) awful good; that's in the books," manager Jim Leyland said. "Obviously he's a special player, but a lot of guys did well."

Now leading the majors with 36 RBIs and a .390 average after winning the AL Triple Crown last year, Cabrera has hit .472 with 19 RBIs over his past 14 games and has four homers in the last seven. He homered in both of his at-bats last year against Philip Humber, Houston's scheduled starter for Sunday.

Cabrera's run to AL MVP honors helped Detroit rally in September to win the Central Division despite being 15-14 at this point last year. The Tigers appear to be a more confident team early this season and are off to their best start since 2007.

"What you witnessed was why they were the American League champions last year," Houston manager Bo Porter said. "They rolled out their A game, and it was pretty impressive."

Hunter also has been impressive in his first year with Detroit, hitting .361 overall and recording seven of his 16 RBIs in his last nine contests.

Verlander (3-2, 1.83 ERA), meanwhile, overcame a blister on his thumb to record the best April of his stellar nine-year career. He allowed no more than one earned run in four of six starts.

The right-hander has gone seven innings in three straight outings but got his first win in that span Tuesday, yielding a run and striking out eight in a 6-1 victory over Minnesota. Prior to this season, Verlander never had an ERA below 2.41 for the month of April.

"Everybody's talking about my velocity being down, but yet I threw the best I have in April," he told the Tigers' official website.

Verlander is 1-0 with a 2.03 ERA in two starts against the Astros (8-23) but has not faced them since 2009.

He'll face a Houston team that has been outscored 41-16 and struck out 55 times during a five-game skid.

Catcher Carlos Corporan homered Saturday for the Astros, who managed six hits overall and three in eight innings off Detroit's Max Scherzer while losing for the ninth time in 10 games. It was the club's most lopsided defeat since a 19-3 loss to Colorado on Sept. 25, 2011.

"The calendar rolls tomorrow, this game is over, and we'll come back (Sunday) focused on the next game," Porter said.

Humber (0-6, 7.58) has allowed 10 runs, 14 hits - including five homers - in 8 2-3 innings while going 0-2 in two starts against the Tigers.

While Verlander enjoyed a strong first month, Humber joined Dave Stewart in 1984 as the only pitchers since 1900 to lose six games in April.

However, the right-hander felt he made some strides in his last outing despite allowing four runs and nine hits with four wild pitches in six innings of a 7-4 loss at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday.

"I feel like I threw the ball well. I'm a little bit frustrated, but it's part of the game," Humber said. "Just keep working harder, keep getting better."

Corporan has appeared in only seven games since April 13 but has gone 10 for 25 with two homers, a double and five RBIs.