With his red-hot Detroit Tigers enjoying a major offensive surge, Brad Ausmus is hoping to make some new memories in the stadium where he spent most of his playing career.
The Tigers look to match their longest winning streak of the season when Ausmus returns to Houston for the first time as a manager in their series opener with the Astros on Friday night.
Detroit’s first-year skipper was a catcher for Houston from 1997-08, and played a key role in the franchise’s run to a World Series appearance in 2005. He hit a memorable game-tying home run with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of the Astros’ 18-inning victory over Atlanta in Game 4 of the NL division series that postseason.
"I played there for 10 years and eight of them were in this ballpark," Ausmus told MLB’s official website. "I certainly have a lot of baseball memories there, though I don’t know many people in the organization anymore."
Ausmus hopes to make it a successful return as the Tigers (43-32) seek their eighth straight victory to equal their season-best run from April 29-May 7. The Astros (34-46) ended up snapping that win streak with a 6-2 victory at Detroit.
The AL Central-leading Tigers have been pounding the baseball over their last six games, averaging 7.2 runs with 10 homers and a .356 average with runners in scoring position.
Miguel Cabrera had his third four-hit game of the season in Thursday’s 6-0 victory at Texas, though former Houston outfielder J.D. Martinez went 0 for 4 to end his 14-game hitting streak. Cabrera (9 for 22), J.D. Martinez (15 for 37), Ian Kinsler (11 for 22) and Victor Martinez (8 for 20) are among Detroit’s hottest hitters during this stretch.
Victor Martinez had six hits – three home runs – in the May series with Houston, while Cabrera homered twice with six RBIs.
The Tigers will try to continue that production for Justin Verlander (6-7, 4.82 ERA), who hasn’t won since May 30 at Seattle.
After going 2-5 with a 7.83 ERA in his previous seven starts, the right-hander hopes to build on Saturday’s outing when he allowed two runs with eight strikeouts over seven innings in a 5-4, 10-inning win at Cleveland.
"Nobody said this game was easy," said Verlander, who is 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA in three career starts versus Houston.
The AL West-worst Astros had totaled just 20 runs while dropping eight of nine before Thursday’s 6-1 victory over visiting Atlanta.
Matt Dominguez broke out of an 0-for-23 funk with a three-run homer, while George Springer hit his 15th home run – the most for any Astros rookie before the All-Star break.
Jose Altuve, hitting .459 over his last nine games, had two hits and two steals to increase his AL-leading totals to 107 and 30.
Houston starter Brad Peacock (2-4, 4.50), who missed his last scheduled outing due to a bout with food poisoning, has gone 2-0 with a 2.93 ERA in his last five starts.
In his only career outing against the Tigers, the right-hander allowed three runs over 6 2-3 innings in a 3-2 road loss May 7. Cabrera and Victor Martinez homered off him in that contest.
"There’s really no break in their order," Peacock said. "I’ve got to be on top of my game."
The Tigers have won nine of 11 meetings since the Astros joined the AL.