Drew Smyly may have endured his share of early-season struggles, but few pitchers have been more solid in the month of June.
Over the past month, the Tigers' left-hander has compiled a 1.44 ERA and 17 strikeouts while turning in four consecutive quality starts. The streak comes in the wake of Smyly going 1-3 with a 4.32 ERA in his previous seven appearances, including a three-run, 5 1/3-inning performance against the Astros on May 8.
The key for Smyly? Well, it sounds simple enough.
"Just staying consistent, being as consistent as I can," said Smyly, now 4-6 with a 3.19 ERA. "Just throwing strikes, attacking guys. Mix speeds, throw strikes."
When Smyly and the first-place Tigers face the Astros at Minute Maid Park on Sunday, they will do so looking to win a series that started with a 4-3 loss in extra innings on Friday, derailing a seven-game winning streak. Houston catcher Jason Castro, hitting just .221 with 32 RBIs this year, delivered the decisive blow with a walk-off home run in the 11th.
"It was nice to see Jason come up with that big hit," said right-hander Scott Feldman, who will start for the Astros opposite Smyly. "He's been swinging the bat pretty good. He had some tough luck, hitting it right at guys, so it was good to see him get it over the fence."
The 31-year-old Feldman (3-5, 4.00) has not allowed more than three earned runs in six of his last seven starts. However, the Tigers are the only American League opponent that Feldman has never beaten in his career, as he is 0-3 in 11 games (five starts) vs. the AL central leaders.
"I wasn't aware of that," said Feldman. "Now I got extra pressure. Got to get those guys."
Detroit bounced back on Saturday with a 4-3 win of their own.
Tigers: Kinsler, captain back to back
Second baseman Ian Kinsler continues to make his case for a trip to the All-Star Game with a series of strong performances at the plate.
Kinsler, who went 2-for-5 with a three-run homer on Saturday, has delivered seven multi-hit games in a row, the longest such streak of his career and the first Tigers player to accomplish the feat since Frank Bolling in 1960.
Through this stretch, Kinsler has hit .500 with three homers and nine RBIs. He ranks in the top five among AL second basemen in runs scored (55), RBIs (42) and home runs (10).
Astros: Fowler sidelined again
Center fielder Dexter Fowler was out of the starting lineup for the second game in a row on Saturday. The team's leadoff man was a late scratch on Friday when it was discovered he was dealing with tightness in his back.
"He's dealing with some back stiffness, tightness," manager Bo Porter said on Saturday. "He's going to be out again today. We'll see how he feels tomorrow, and make a better assessment on him."
Alex Presley again filled in for Fowler on Saturday and accounted for all three of Houston's runs with a two-RBI single and a solo home run.
• Tigers reliever Joba Chamberlain pitched a scoreless eighth inning on Friday night, giving him seven consecutive appearances without allowing a run. He has kept his opponents off the scoreboard in 19 of his last 20 outings.
• Astros outfielder George Springer hit his 15th home run of the season on Thursday, extending the club record for home runs by a rookie before the All-Star break. The team's rookie record for homers over a full season belongs to Lance Berkman, who hit 21 in 2000.