Miguel Cabrera is back for the Detroit Tigers, but it remains to be seen if the star can help them make a run in the positive direction.
Looking to rebound from another defeat, the Tigers try to keep Collin McHugh from winning a sixth straight home start for the Houston Astros on Saturday night.
Detroit (55-60) went 15-20 while Cabrera endured his first stint on the disabled list with a strained left calf. Though he’s batting .346, Cabrera went 0 for 3 with a walk and two strikeouts during Friday’s 5-1 defeat.
"His timing is obviously not perfect," manager Brad Ausmus said. "But that’s to be expected."
Sitting five games out of the AL’s final wild-card spot with four teams ahead of them, the Tigers have little room for error and likely need Cabrera to spark a club that’s totaled four runs in their four losses over the last five contests. Detroit managed six hits and struck out 11 times against Houston ace Dallas Keuchel and two relievers Friday.
Ex-Astro J.D. Martinez clubbed a three-run homer and the Tigers recorded eight other hits off McHugh (13-6, 4.22 ERA) in seven innings of a 6-2 home victory May 22. The right-hander, however, has a 2.73 ERA and allowed one home run while winning his last five at Minute Maid Park, where he’s 9-2 despite a 4.81 ERA in 11 starts.
McHugh dropped a third straight road start after he allowed both runs and two of his three walks in the first of six innings in last Saturday’s 2-1 defeat at Oakland.
"He did a good job of grinding through his outing," manager A.J. Hinch said.
The West-leading Astros (63-53) have won 15 of the last 17 at Minute Maid, where they are 39-18, but 24-35 away from.
"It’s just one of those things where we play better at home right now," Keuchel said "We’re going to have to figure it out before too long, but it’s nice to be back home with the support of the fans and the city."
Justin Verlander (1-5, 4.57) is 1-0 with a 2.08 ERA in his last two starts at Houston, and 1-0 with a 1.14 ERA in his last three on the road overall. The righty will look to avoid losing a third straight start even though he allowed two unearned runs in six innings of Sunday’s 7-2 home loss to Boston.
"In probably four of my last six starts, I’ve pitched better than I did at any time last season," said Verlander, who has received six runs of support in his last five starts. "I’m seeing reactions from hitters that I haven’t seen in a while, but we still need to win the games."
Carlos Gomez is 1 for 11 against Verlander, and 2 for 20 in the last six games. He showed some frustration by cracking his bat over his thigh after a second strikeout Friday.
"It’s just one of those things that you get frustrated when you have the pitch and you miss it," Gomez said. "So it’s something that you have to stop."
Jose Altuve, meanwhile, went 2 for 3 with a double off Verlander last season, and is batting .556 with seven stolen bases in his last six home games against the Tigers.