HOUSTON — Houston Astros starter Luis Garcia retired the final 15 batters he faced in Friday’s game against the Detroit Tigers.
Of those 15 batters, the 25-year-old struck out eight.
Garcia relied on his cutter to shut down the Tigers, still waiting for their offense to pick up the pace, across seven innings. In a 3-2 loss in the second of four games at Minute Maid Park, the Tigers recorded two hits and two walks.
Detroit dropped to 8-17, with losses in 10 of its past 12 games.
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For Garcia’s seven innings, he allowed two runs (one earned run) on two hits and two walks with nine strikeouts. The Astros’ bullpen — right-handers Phil Maton and Rafael Montero — retired six batters in a row to end the game, giving Houston’s pitching staff 21 straight Tigers retired.
The Tigers swung at 17 of 33 cutters from Garcia, whiffing at 13 of them. The right-hander recorded 17 swings and misses — 13 with his cutter — and 15 called strikes in his longest of five starts this season.
Opposing Garcia, Tigers right-hander Beau Brieske allowed back-to-back home runs in the second inning but settled in to complete five innings. The 24-year-old, making his third MLB start, gave up three runs on five hits and three walks with three strikeouts, throwing 87 pitches.
The Astros fouled off 10 of his 24 pitches in the first inning but only five more against him the rest of the way. They also had a 92.7 mph exit velocity through two innings but he wrapped up his outing with an 87.8 mph average.
Brieske has a 4.20 ERA in 15 innings this season.
No leadoff jack
For the first time in his career, Brieske avoided a leadoff home run. Astros leadoff hitter Jose Altuve ripped a second-pitch slider for a single into left field but was stranded at third base.
Brieske’s first four outs against the Astros were all deep flyouts, three of which traveled to the warning track: Michael Brantley (363 feet), Alex Bregman (370 feet), Yordan Alvarez (303 feet) and Yuli Gurriel (380 feet).
For his fifth out, Brieske struck out Kyle Tucker looking on three pitches. He dispatched him with two fastballs and one changeup. He should have picked up his sixth out against Jeremy Pena to conclude a scoreless second inning.
Instead, the Astros scored three runs with two outs.
Left fielder Willi Castro misplayed Pena’s 230-foot fly ball to the outfield. The ball was hit with a 72.9 mph exit velocity and had a .180 expected batting average. Shortstop Javier Báez dashed into the outfield, trying to salvage Castro’s miscue, but couldn’t complete the sliding, over-the-head catch
Pena ended up with a double, and the next batter — Chas McCormick — crushed Brieske’s 95 mph fastball for two-run home run. Martin Maldonado went back-to-back with McCormick, smacking a 94.8 mph fastball over the right-field wall and into the seats.
The pair of homers put the Astros ahead 3-1.
To open the third inning, Brieske walked Bregman on five pitches.
Catcher Tucker Barnhart ran to the pitcher’s mound for a visit. Brieske answered by retiring the next three batters: Alvarez (strikeout), Gurriel and Tucker to complete the scoreless inning.
Another important mound visit occurred with one out in the fifth inning. Brantley singled and Bregman walked to apply pressure. Pitching coach Chris Fetter met with Brieske before Alvarez stepped to the plate.
Brieske, again, managed the threat.
Alvarez flied out to right field on a first-pitch changeup for the second out. To conclude his outing, Brieske struck out Gurriel swinging with a fifth-pitch 77.7 mph changeup.
For his 87 pitches (55 strikes), Brieske used 36 four-seam fastballs (41%), 29 changeups (33%), 14 sliders (16%), seven curveballs (8%) and one sinker (1%). He earned seven swings and misses, including four with his changeup, and 16 called strikes.
Hittin’ Harold strikes again
As Brieske maneuvered deep flyouts, the Tigers scored first in the top of the second inning.
Harold Castro extended his hitting streak to six games with a single to open the frame, and he came around to score for a 1-0 lead on Tucker Barnhart’s one-out groundout to first base.
In the third inning, the Tigers tacked on their second run.
Robbie Grossman drew a seven-pitch walk, and Báez reached safely on a fielding error by Bregman. Miguel Cabrera’s flyout advanced both runners, which set the table for Jeimer Candelario’s broken-bat groundout to plate Grossman. The Astros, though, still had the lead, 3-2.
The Tigers stranded Báez at third in the first and third innings.
Oh, that bullpen
Following Brieske’s five innings, the Tigers turned to their best relievers in a one-run game in hopes of keeping the margin close. Right-hander Alex Lange tossed a scoreless sixth inning.
Righty Jacob Barnes started the seventh with a walk and a single, but he retired the next two batters to bring up the left-handed hitting Alvarez, and Tigers manager A.J. Hinch called on his best left-hander: Andrew Chafin.
Chafin walked Alvarez to load the bases, but Gurriel stranded the Astros’ three runners when he flied out to deep right field. Chafin returned to the mound for the eighth, though Hinch replaced him with righty Joe Jimenez after Tucker’s leadoff single.
Jimenez kept the Astros from scoring in the eighth.
Contact Evan Petzold at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers threaten early, but fall quietly again, 3-2, to Astros