Morton finishes strong in loss to Detroit

Astros righty retires 14 of the last 15 hitters he faces

Morton finishes strong in loss to Detroit

HOUSTON -- Through seven innings of two-run baseball, Astros starter Charlie Morton allowed minimal damage to Detroit's explosive lineup and kept a win within reach for the Astros on Wednesday night.

Before the Tigers scored a pair of runs in the eighth inning to pull ahead of the the Astros for a 6-3 victory, Morton gave up four hits and two earned runs, his lowest run total in his last three starts. He also retired 14 of the last 15 hitters he faced.

After his last start in Houston's 5-3 loss to Cleveland on Friday, Morton said he struggled executing a third pitch -- his cutter -- against the opposition's third round of at-bats. On Wednesday, Morton said his three primary pitches, a cutter and curveball and fastball, were playing well in the strike zone.

"They were there for strikes," Morton said. "When they were aggressive early, I think we got some quick outs, a lot of ground balls … They were a little more aggressive than I think I was expecting. [We got] a couple quick innings and it worked out."

"Early, he had a little bit of a hard time getting in the strike zone," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "But all-in-all, to get through seven, he labored a little bit. But as he got into the game, he got a little bit better as the game went on. I was happy for him to get through as many innings as he did, and keep the game right where it was."

Chris Devenski replaced Morton after 96 pitches to begin the eighth, capping the right-handed starter's night at two runs, six strikeouts and three walks, his most efficient outing this season.

"Charlie pitched really well," Devenski said. "It was a good job that he did. It's just too bad I wasn't able to finish it … I felt like I just got beat, you know. I'm going to go out there, give my best and put my best foot down, but it's baseball and it's going to happen."

Jordan Jankowski made his Major League debut Wednesday night. Jankowski struck out the first two batters he faced before allowing a triple and a two-run home run.

Christian Boutwell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Houston. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.