Porcello, the closest thing to the Reggie Jackson of May, encountered trouble from the AL's lowest-scoring offense in the seventh inning, leading to his exit with the tying and go-ahead runs on base. But Joba Chamberlain induced a groundout of Jose Altuve for the third out.
This wasn't the best Porcello has looked this season, but it was good enough, even on something of an off night for the offense. The right-hander's 6 2/3 innings of seven-hit, two-run ball held up, though the Tigers knocked just five hits, their second-lowest total of the season. It certainly didn't hurt that two of those hits left the yard.
Before allowing three consecutive two-out hits in the seventh inning to Houston's seven, eight and nine hitters, Porcello pitched soundly. He relied on his sinker -- which Victor Martinez called "nasty" and "one of the best in the game right now" -- to help him out of a couple of jams.
Porcello used it in two situations when he needed a double-play ball, and the Astros played into his hands on both occasions. Altuve hit into a double play in the fifth, and Jason Castro followed suit in the next frame.
"I threw some good ones, and I threw some ones that weren't that great," Porcello said. "Those two ground balls were huge for me."
Other than the double plays, catcher Alex Avila admitted Porcello "didn't have a very good feel with his sinker." At times, Porcello struggled to keep the ball down, which stemmed from a suboptimal point of release.
While "Mr. May" may not carry the same weight as Jackson's "Mr. October" moniker, it's difficult to ignore the numbers Porcello has put up in May over his six big league seasons. In 27 career starts, he is 15-6 with an ERA of 3.12.
But it briefly looked as if Ausmus had left Porcello in one batter too long. With runners on the corners in the seventh and two outs in a 3-1 game, the pair conferenced, and Ausmus opted to stick with his starter. Marwin Gonzalez then singled to pull the Astros to within a run.
Chamberlain came on to best Altuve and then struck out the side in the eighth. It has become Ausmus' habit to stand at the top of the stairs and immediately let his reliever know when he is heading back for another frame. That way, Ausmus said, there's not time to "mentally decompress" and lose focus.
"He was outstanding," Ausmus said of Chamberlain. "I said in Spring Training we hope someone kind of takes that setup role and runs with it, and I think Joba's shown so far that he's running with it, so we're going to try to keep handing him the ball and hope he can hand the ball to Joe Nathan."
Nathan picked up his seventh save, though it wasn't without drama. After quickly recording two outs, a walk and two steals placed the tying run just 90 feet away. But Matt Dominguez became the Astros' 10th strikeout victim of the night to end the game.
Fans who braved the wet conditions that briefly delayed the first pitch were rewarded with another Miguel Cabrera long ball. He sent a fastball on the inner third of the plate over the right-field wall for his second homer in as many nights, giving the Tigers a 2-0 first-inning lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Cabrera's ability to drive an inside pitch to the opposite field further proves his slow start was little cause for alarm.
In the sixth inning, with Detroit leading, 2-1, Martinez homered on an 0-2 fastball from Houston starter Brad Peacock. Martinez said he was anticipating a fastball after he hit a curveball hard for an out earlier in the game.
"I don't even know how Victor Martinez hit that pitch," said Houston manager Bo Porter. "Kind of like a waste fastball up and out of the zone, and he was able to get a barrel to it."
The round-tripper extended Martinez's hitting streak to 10 games, which is now the team's longest after Torii Hunter snapped his 13-game streak with an 0-for-4 night.
Even though the Tigers' bats -- outside of Cabrera and Martinez -- didn't account for much, these days, it might be enough given the way the pitching staff has looked.
"Joba's pitched well and Joe's pitching well," said Ausmus, who admitted it's a "good effort" when his starter can last as long as Porcello did. "So it's really starter, Joba, Joe in a lot of cases."