Astros host Tigers with red-hot bottom of order

HOUSTON — Even in defeat, the Astros continue to receive production from the bottom third of their batting order, with manager A.J. Hinch armed with enough depth to mix and match starters and expect sterling results.

Catcher Juan Centeno and center fielder Jake Marisnick posted multi-hit games Tuesday night while batting eighth and ninth in the second game of the series with the Detroit Tigers (22-23).

On Wednesday, third baseman Alex Bregman recorded three hits and finished a triple shy of the cycle batting seventh while eight-hole hitter Nori Aoki produced a sacrifice fly and a ninth-inning single.

“I can really put anybody in any order and feel good about it,” Hinch said. “It’s more in-game and some of the things that we can do knowing that the bottom of the order can be productive. The making of this lineup this year whenever I’ve given anyone a day off (for) either injury, performance (or) rest, I don’t feel like there’s a lot of drop-off from the beginning of the lineup all the way through the production.

“A lot of that is (utility man) Marwin (Gonzalez). He’s replacing a lot of these guys. Marisnick, who’s come on strong the last couple weeks. It’s a good feeling when I write the lineup at 1 o’clock. And then as the game starts there aren’t very many empty innings, and that’s precisely because of the bottom of the lineup is holding up their end of the bargain.”

Hinch hopes to continue receiving production from the bottom of the order as he sends right-hander Mike Fiers (1-2, 5.14 ERA) to the mound to start Thursday’s series finale.

Fiers is 1-0 with a 2.35 ERA over four career outings against the Tigers, last starting against Detroit on July 30, 2016 when he allowed one unearned run on four hits over 6 1/3 innings while not factoring in the decision of a 3-2 loss at Comerica Park.

Right-hander Justin Verlander (4-3, 4.39 ERA) gets the start for the Tigers. Verlander is 4-0 with a 2.05 ERA over seven career starts against Houston, recording 56 strikeouts in 48 1/3 innings. He was 2-0 with a 3.00 ERA against the Astros last season and has made five career starts at Minute Maid Park, where he is 2-0 with a 2.59 ERA and 38 strikeouts over 31 1/3 innings.

Having stalled offensively by scoring four runs during their three-game losing skid, the Tigers broke free Wednesday night in their 6-3 win over the Astros (31-16).

Second baseman Ian Kinsler and shortstop Jose Iglesias bracketed the starting lineup batting first and ninth and recorded multi-hit games, with Kinsler finishing 2-for-5 with a double and two runs scored while Iglesias finished 3-for-4 with two RBIs, three runs and his second home run of the season.

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus sat third baseman Nicholas Castellanos and rested right fielder J.D. Martinez, moves that weren’t designed to shake up the offense but rather offer a respite for those involved. The results were positive still, and with Verlander on deck, the Tigers might be poised to build some momentum.

“It took a little bit of time but we got the bats going better tonight,” Ausmus said. “Miggy (first baseman Miguel Cabrera) looked good at the plate, Kinsler with the big double, Iglesias obviously with a couple big hits. It was a much better night. We’re going to score runs through the course of the season. The last two games were a team-wide slump.”