Detroit Tigers beat up by Houston Astros, 12-3, in sloppy series opener

Detroit Free Press

The Detroit Tigers reached the pinnacle of their performance Thursday night when Jose Urena threw his seventh pitch, which generated his fourth out. From that point forward, the Tigers crumbled, and the Houston Astros took advantage.

Urena couldn’t complete the fourth inning and has struggled in four consecutive starts. Second baseman Willi Castro made two fielding errors. Three of the team’s 11 hits were from 22-year-old rookie Akil Baddoo, and two came from 24-year-old rookie Daz Cameron.

When the Tigers loaded the bases with one out in the fourth inning, a ball in the dirt ricocheted off the ground, hit Harold Castro in the face and led to Nomar Mazara getting throwing out while scampering back to second base. The next batter grounded out to end the inning. And in the fifth, left fielder Michael Brantley robbed Jonathan Schoop of a two-run blast.

It was that kind of night for the Tigers (32-43), as they were handed a 12-3 loss in the first of a four-game series at Comerica Park. The Astros — tallying 18 hits and six walks — extended their winning streak to 11 games.

“They’re going to roll out a pretty good lineup (Friday),” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “The game itself is going to challenge you, so there’s no real message other than go home, get some rest, get back here. We’ve got to prepare and do a little better.”

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In the ninth inning, Yordan Alvarez crushed a one-out grand slam off reliever Bryan Garcia for a 10-run lead. Harold Castro moved from shortstop to the pitcher’s mound to get the final two outs. He has not allowed a run in 2⅔ innings across three appearances this season. The umpires checked his hat, glove and belt for foreign substances on his way back to the dugout.

Willi Castro lined an RBI single to center field in the bottom of the ninth.

“We’ve been through this before,” Baddoo said about the nine-run loss. “We know there’s always light at the end of the tunnel.”

Urena shelled again

After Urena used seven pitches for four outs, he needed 72 pitches to register his final seven.

A shift in his effectiveness began with an 11-pitch walk to Carlos Correa — who was constantly heckled by the Comerica Park crowd — in the second inning. Two batters later, Abraham Toro drew a five-pitch walk.

A two-out fielding error from Willi Castro loaded the bases, and Martin Maldonado opened the scoring with a two-run single to left field. The Astros tacked on two more runs in the third inning, thanks to five of the first six batters reaching safely.

With the bases loaded and one out, Urena drilled Toro with an 0-2 pitch. The hit-by-pitch gave the Astros a free run for a 4-0 lead. Upon striking out Maldonado to end the disappointing third inning, Urena pumped his arms in celebration.

“The way he’s throwing is a concern,” Hinch said. “We’d like him to be better. We’d like him to get deeper into games, and he’s going to keep working. He hasn’t looked the same since his injury, but he says he’s healthy.”

Urena, who left his May 26 start with a right forearm strain, confirmed he is healthy: “I feel good. Sometimes you feel like you have everything. But overall, I feel good.”

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Urena’s momentum didn’t translate into the fourth inning. He gave up two more runs before getting chased. A leadoff single from Myles Straw set the table for Gurriel, who delivered a one-out RBI double. With two outs, Correa lined an RBI single to left field for a 6-1 lead.

Hinch bounced out of the dugout and replaced Urena with lefty reliever Tyler Alexander. Urena allowed six runs (four earned) on eight hits and two walks. He had one strikeout and threw 56 of 82 pitches for strikes.

Poor results from Urena have been a trend in June. In his past four outings, the veteran right-hander has conceded 24 runs (21 earned runs) over 14⅔ innings. During this stretch, he has 10 walks compared to seven strikeouts.

“It hasn’t been good for him in the last three or four starts,” Hinch said. “The execution has been hit or miss.”

Nothing but Baddoo

Baddoo earned an opportunity in the leadoff spot and did not disappoint.

He put the Tigers on the scoreboard in the third inning with a two-out double to right field, after Harold Castro walked and advanced to second base on a wild pitch from Astros starter Luis Garcia. He ripped another two-out double in the fifth — his 12th double in 57 games this season — but was stranded.

Back in the first inning, Baddoo opened the game with a single but was caught stealing. He finished 3-for-5 against the Astros. It was his third game leading off. The role usually belongs to Robbie Grossman, who hit third in the order.

“I like the leadoff spot,” Baddoo said. “That’s the place where I’d like to stay.”

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Since May 11, Baddoo is hitting .367 (29-for-79) with seven doubles, one triple, one home run, eight RBIs, 20 walks and 19 strikeouts in 31 games.

“He’s completely comfortable at this level,” Hinch said. “The things that he’s worked on, he’s starting to implement them into games. He’s a good player, and I think we got to keep building off those things and see how much we can challenge him with. He’s not intimidated by anything.”

In the sixth inning, Cameron scored Grossman by dropping a two-out double into left field, cutting the deficit to 8-2. Grossman started the sixth with a line-drive double to right field. Eric Haase singled in the seventh inning to snap an 0-for-16 stretch.

Mixed results from bullpen

With the Tigers out of striking distance by the time Urena was removed in the fourth inning, Hinch turned to Alexander to eat innings. He gave up two runs in the fifth, but the rest of the bullpen kept the Astros from scoring until the ninth inning.

Buck Farmer pitched a scoreless sixth, but not without trouble. He loaded the bases with one out by hitting Robel Garcia, walking Maldonado and allowing Straw to single. But Brantley grounded into a double play, started by Farmer, to end the inning.

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Joe Jimenez and Garcia delivered scoreless seventh and eighth innings, respectively. Garcia recorded the lone perfect inning from the pitching staff, striking out Kyle Tucker on a foul tip and Toro on a called strike in the eighth.

Garcia returned for the ninth and allowed a grand slam.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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