HOUSTON -- After the Tigers gave up a one-run lead in the ninth, they struck Astros reliever Pat Neshek for four hits and three runs in the 11th inning -- highlighted by Victor Martinez's RBI double to break the tie -- to capture a 4-2 victory over Houston on Saturday night.
The Tigers carried the lead into the ninth thanks in large part to starter Justin Verlander, who scattered three hits -- tying his season low -- while striking out seven through seven shutout innings. He worked around baserunners in four innings, but none got past first.
After Preston Tucker tied the game with a leadoff homer in the ninth off Bruce Rondon, the Astros looked to get something started in the 10th on Marwin Gonzalez's one-out single. But pinch-runner Jake Marisnick was picked off of first by catcher James McCann to quell any hope of a rally, preventing the Astros from extending their American League West lead and forcing a rubber match on Sunday.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED After further review: Astros starter Collin McHugh thought he had thwarted the Tigers' scoring chance in the fifth inning, stranding Anthony Gose at second base on what appeared to be a shoestring catch from Tucker. However, Tigers first-base coach Omar Vizquel told manager Brad Ausmus to challenge. While Kiss Cam went on at Minute Maid Park, umpires saw replays showing Tucker trap the ball. With Gose already rounding third base on the would-be catch, Kinsler was awarded an RBI single on the overturned call, and the Tigers picked up a 1-0 lead. Astros manager A.J. Hinch was ejected for arguing the call.
"We were pretty confident that it would get overturned based on what [replay coordinator] Matt Martin had seen," Ausmus said, "although I'll tell you, it looked from the dugout like he caught it. That right there tells you why a manager is checking all the time."
"The key with replay is that you can't argue the result after it goes to replay. And I didn't," Hinch said. "I didn't argue it. We knew the play resulted in what it did. I do believe in getting an explanation as to what the interpretation was as to why Gose would or wouldn't score. That's what I asked for, and I asked for it in a calm voice, not even being combative and not arguing. And he wasn't interested in explaining." More >
Verlander in control again: Verlander faced a free-swinging, homer-slugging Astros team and set them up with fastballs. His 96-mph heater on his 105th pitch doesn't have same ring as what he used to throw, but it was moving, delivering his seventh strikeout of the night as Carlos Gomez swung through it.
"Fastball command was really good," Verlander said. "Made a few mistakes there, but only a few is not bad throughout the course of a game. I was able to locate my fastball most of the night and had the off-speed when I needed it." More >
"Obviously, we got a really strong version of Verlander tonight and he got stronger as the game went along," Hinch said. "He didn't give too many pitches to hit. He pitches to the corners, he pitches with good stuff."
Tucker the Tiger tamer: Tucker's ninth-inning blast was his third game-tying homer against Detroit this season and the second to come in the ninth inning. The rookie's blast -- which came on Rondon's 1-2, 100-mph fastball -- atoned for his missed catch in the fifth that led to a run on a controversial call. More >
"I was just trying to get on base and get something started for our team," Tucker said. "But I think everybody was battling from the first pitch to the last, it was a tough game because everyone was just trying so hard to push that one run across -- we knew it'd be a low-scoring game. We got an opportunity to win the series [Sunday] and that's what we're looking forward to."
"I don't really like the word 'vintage.' I think last year was an aberration for me, and I think I did a lot of work this offseason to get myself and my body in position to be able to pitch well. I look to this as more the norm than an aberration. I don't think this is a throwback. This is the pitcher that I am." -- Verlander, on a 'vintage' outing
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Verlander owns the longest active streak in the Majors with 272 consecutive appearances with at least one strikeout. It's the 10th-longest streak in Major League history, 40 games behind Tom Seaver for ninth.
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers: After making his Tigers debut at Comerica Park a couple of weeks ago and a follow-up start at Kansas City on Monday, fly-ball pitcher Matt Boyd will have to handle the home run tendencies of Minute Maid Park when he starts Sunday's series finale (2:10 p.m. ET).
Astros: In the series finale at 1:10 CT, Mike Fiers will make his home debut in his second start since being acquired by the Astros at the July 31 Trade Deadline. Fiers made his first Astros start in Oakland, where he threw 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball but did not factor in the decision.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. Chandler Rome is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.