Tigers-Astros Preview

The Associated Press

Rick Porcello is feeling better about his stuff, but he's not racking up strikeouts like his Detroit Tigers teammates.

Perhaps his first start against the AL-worst Houston Astros will change that.

Porcello and the Tigers will try to rebound from their first loss in six games on Thursday night in Houston, where these clubs will meet for the first time in four seasons.

With Anibal Sanchez and recent call-up Jose Ortega combining for 11 strikeouts in Wednesday's 6-2 loss to Minnesota, Detroit (15-11) has fanned 10 straight in six consecutive games. That's the longest stretch by an AL club since 1921, and two shy of Milwaukee's eight-game run from Aug. 20-28.

While Sanchez, who struck out a team-record 17 on April 26, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander have each recorded at least eight strikeouts in their last turns, Porcello (1-2, 8.84 ERA) had just five his last time out, and he's fine with that after recording three total in his first four.

The right-hander went 6 1-3 innings in Saturday's 7-4 win over Atlanta, giving up three runs. It was definite step in the right direction after yielding nine runs and not getting out of the first inning in a 10-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on April 20.

"Get to two strikes, try to bounce some breaking balls and not give them good enough pitches to hit," Porcello said.

The right-hander will face a Houston team that's struck out a MLB-high 276 times. Marwin Gonzalez went down swinging to end Wednesday's 5-4 loss to the New York Yankees. The Astros (8-20) dropped two of three in the series to finish a 1-6 trip.

"If we get that kind of effort and play baseball the way we played here these three games, we're going to win a lot of ballgames,'' manager Bo Porter said.

Houston, a winner of a season-best two straight at Minute Maid Park, opens its season-high 10-game homestand with left-hander Jordan Lyles making his season debut. He takes the spot of Brad Peacock, who was recently demoted to the bullpen.

Lyles, 7-20 with a 5.20 ERA in 45 games, is back with the team after being sent down following a rocky spring. He went 2-2 with a 5.32 ERA in six appearances for Triple-A Oklahoma City.

"You know, this guy has all the skill sets to be a front-of-the-rotation starter in this league and we're hoping that that is the case and hoping the step that he took back in the spring is added motivation to never take it for granted and give everything that he has to not only be in the big leagues but be an elite pitcher in the big leagues,'' Porter said.

Lyles showed that in his last start, throwing a four-hitter in a 7-0 road win over the Brewers on Sept. 20.

He'll get his first look at the Tigers and Miguel Cabrera, who went 12 for 29 (.414) with two homers and 11 RBIs on the Tigers' just-completed 6-2 homestand. Cabrera, though, is a .194 hitter off Astros pitching, which is by far his worst average against any team.

Prince Fielder is batting .295 versus Houston with 24 homers and 75 RBIs, all during his time with Milwaukee.

The Tigers are 6-3 in this series since dropping their first six to Houston. Detroit improved to 1-5 at Minute Maid Park with a 4-3 victory in the last game between these teams on June 28, 2009.

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