Astros hope to stay hot against Tigers (Jul 29, 2017)

BY AP • July 29, 2017

DETROIT - Manager A.J. Hinch says his Houston Astros, already owners of the best record in the American League, could be even better. He might be right.

Lefty Dallas Keuchel returned Friday night from nearly two months on the disabled list, and though he showed some rust, his first start since June 2 wasn't a disaster.

Keuchel reached his pitch limit of 79 -- but after three innings and not the five manager Hinch was hoping for. He gave up six hits and three runs in his three innings with three walks and three strikeouts.

The Astros came back to beat the Detroit Tigers 6-5 as Josh Reddick hit a three-run home run to right in the eighth inning.

"All in all it's great to see him on the field," Hinch said of his lefty. "We feel good when he's on the mound. He wasn't as sharp as he's going to be."

Right-hander Collin McHugh, a rotation regular last season, is scheduled to make his second start of the year Saturday night against a new daddy, lefty Matt Boyd of Detroit.

The Astros' Sunday's starter, right-hander Lance McCullers Jr., has scuffled in his last few starts but was brilliant early in the season.

Astros center fielder George Springer, a power-laden leadoff guy, was placed on the 10-day disabled list retroactive to July 25 with left quad soreness but should be able to return when eligible Aug. 4.

"It doesn't change a ton for us," Hinch said prior to Keuchel's return to the mound, "because of the approach that we take to play every day.

"As you study our team and you look at what's possible, and the return of all these players, there's great upside. But we haven't exactly pouted during the down times. We've competed pretty well and try to just be next man up and play good baseball."

Well, one would have to say they've played decently, even with the recent and perhaps prolonged absence of shortstop Carlos Correa due to a thumb injury. Houston takes a 68-34 record into Saturday's game.

There's a chance the Astros could leave Detroit with one or two Tigers since Houston is shopping for dependable starters and a quality left-hander reliever.

Hinch moved Brad Peacock to the bullpen for at least the weekend, and he picked up the win Friday night with four innings of two-run relief. Peacock began the season as a reliever but was shifted to the rotation when Houston began losing starters to injury.

McHugh is making his second start of the season, being on the 60-day disabled list since early in the year, and he did not get a decision in his only start July 22 in Baltimore. The 30-year-old lasted 4 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and four runs. He has won his last six decisions spanning two seasons.

Boyd (4-5, 5.48 ERA), whose daughter was born Thursday, did not face the Astros when Detroit visited Houston early in the season, but is 1-0 in two career starts against his Saturday opponent. His ERA, however, is 7.20 against the Astros.

The Tigers are in the early stages of a rebuild that is going the way the club runs the bases -- slowly.

Detroit wants to shed payroll, get something in return for impending free agents, restock the farm system and get more athletic. So far the only step has been moving right fielder J.D. Martinez to Arizona for three minor league middle infielders.

The rumors will dog the Tigers until the non-waiver trade deadline at 4 p.m. Monday.

"I'll be glad when it's over and we haven't lost anyone," Tigers' manager Brad Ausmus said. "I kind of naively assume we're going to have everyone until someone says we don't.

"You can't get away from it. Even if you avoid social media, you come into the clubhouse and you get asked about it.

"The truth is, most of it has no fact behind it at all. There's some that has some basis and some that is just grabbed out of thin air. But 'we've' got to fill lines on web pages and newspapers. 'We've' got to fill air time on TV so let's talk about it more. It's good for the game. But it can be tough for players.

"(A big driver is) MLB network. No question about it. They have 24 hours of baseball they have to fill. Honestly, there's so much time, so much dead time to fill on that network that stuff is made up so they can fill it."

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