Detroit Tigers waste Eduardo Rodriguez gem in 3-2 loss to Astros

HOUSTON — The Detroit Tigers recorded leadoff hits in seven of nine innings but only had two runs to show for their efforts, squandering a brilliant start from left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez.

Two runs wasn’t enough.

“It’s tough to win right now,” manager AJ Hinch said. “We’re having a hard time putting it all together.”

Right-handed reliever Michael Fulmer allowed two runs in the eighth inning alone, giving the Houston Astros three for the game. The Tigers lost, 3-2, Saturday in the third of four matchups at Minute Maid Park, for their 11th loss in 13 games.

Fulmer walked Kyle Tucker on five pitches with the bases loaded and two outs for the Astros’ go-ahead run.

“You’re going to have those days when we’re on a skid like this and everybody else does their job except for me,” Fulmer said. “It’s just tough. I tried to get back in the zone, tried to make adjustments. Obviously, I didn’t make them.”

The Tigers (8-18) finished 1-for-16 with runners in scoring position, stranding nine runners on base. Rodriguez countered the lack of game-changing hits by keeping the Astros to one run over nearly seven innings.

Tigers starting pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez throws against the Houston Astros during the first inning Saturday, May 7, 2022, in Houston.

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Rodriguez, who signed a five-year, $77 million contract in November, gave up one hit and three walks with eight strikeouts in 6⅔ innings. The lone hit against Rodriguez occurred in the bottom of the third, when Jose Altuve cranked a first-pitch changeup for a solo home run to left.

In their next matchup, Rodriguez struck out Altuve in the sixth.

“All my pitches were working,” Rodriguez said. “I feel like the mistake that I made to Altuve was the right pitch, I just missed it right on the middle of the plate. Other than that, I feel like everything was working really well.”

The Tigers took a 2-0 lead on Miguel Cabrera’s 600th career double in the third. Derek Hill and Robbie Grossman singled off left-hander Framber Valdez to place runners on the corners with one out.

Cabrera pulled Valdez’s curveball for a two-RBI double into the left-field corner.

Detroit’s offense, despite scoring only two runs, tallied 11 hits and two walks.

Hill, making his seventh start in center field this season, paced the team with three hits. Javier Báez and Jeimer Candelario had the other multi-hit performances with two hits, while Cabrera, Robbie Grossman, Willi Castro and Spencer Torkelson each chipped in one hit.

Torkelson snapped a 0-for-15 stretch with his single in the second inning.

“I can’t complain about our offensive approach today,” Hinch said. “We took what he gave us. We didn’t try to do too much. Slower breaking balls, we pulled them down the line. Obviously, you want to tack on (runs) when you can.”

Valdez allowed two runs on nine hits and one walk with seven strikeouts in six innings. The Tigers’ leadoff hitter reached safely in the first, second, third, fourth, fifth, seventh and eighth innings.

Astros closer Ryan Pressly blanked the Tigers in the ninth inning.

“We’re going to show up tomorrow ready to play, ready to win,” Hinch said. “You don’t want to drag these into the next day. It’s not productive. It’s not good. It’s not good to be angry. We’re obviously frustrated. We need to compartmentalize it.”

Oh, that bullpen

After recording the final out in the seventh, Fulmer returned for the eighth and squandered the Tigers’ 2-1 advantage.

A one-out single from Altuve brought the go-ahead run to the plate. Michael Brantley made Fulmer pay with a game-tying RBI triple to the right-field corner. Tigers manager AJ Hinch intentionally walked Yordan Alvarez with two outs, only for Fulmer to walk Yuli Gurriel on four pitches.

“The potential winning run is on third base already, so the guy at first doesn’t really matter,” Hinch said. “You get to pick your choice: Yordan or Yuli. Both are really good hitters. Yordan is hitting a little bit better than Yuli has. Yuli usually hits the ball on the ground. Michael is going to keep right-handed hitters on the ground . We just didn’t throw the ball over the plate.”

With the bases loaded, Tucker put the Astros up 3-2 with a five-pitch walk.

“He just pulled a couple pitches,” catcher Tucker Barnhart said. “It is what it is.”

Righty Alex Lange replaced Fulmer and escaped further damage by striking out Jeremy Peña.

E-Rod electric

Rodriguez walked Tucker on seven pitches in the second inning, Alvarez on five pitches in the fourth and Tucker on six pitches in the seventh.

After each miscue, Rodriguez bounced back.

“I thought his glove-side stuff was really good,” Hinch said. “I think his sequencing got really good. He pitched everybody a little bit differently. He attacked the zone. … He was really sharp and really in control of the game.”

Astros second baseman Jose Altuve reacts to his home run against the Tigers in the third inning May 7, 2022 at Minute Maid Park in Houston.

Rodriguez struck out Peña on three pitches following Tucker’s two-out walk in the second, and he induced a groundout from Brantley after Altuve’s two-out homer in the third.

In the fourth, Alvarez drew his walk with one out. The next batter, Gurriel, flied out to center field on two pitches, and then Rodriguez punched out Tucker on three pitches. He registered two strikeouts in the second, two in the third, one in the fourth, one in the fifth, one in the sixth and one in the seventh.

“I feel fine,” Rodriguez said about the Tigers’ loss. “I did my job. … We don’t want to lose games, and that’s something where we just got to turn the page and get ready for tomorrow. That’s it.”

But Rodriguez didn’t get a chance to answer in the seventh, as Hinch pulled him from his start after Tucker’s two-out walk. Hinch called Fulmer out of the bullpen to face Peña.

Peña singled, but Fulmer retired Chas McCormick for the third out.

“It’s his decision,” Rodriguez said. “He’s the manager. I don’t want to come out of the game. I never want to come out of the game. He makes the decision, and I’m going to give the ball to him. But for me, as a pitcher, you never want to come out of the game.”

For his 99 pitches (58 strikes), Rodriguez used 32 four-seam fastballs, 31 sinkers, 22 cutters, nine changeups and five sliders. He racked up 12 swings and misses: seven with his four-seamer, two apiece with his sinker and changeup, and one with his cutter. He added 17 called strikes.

Against Rodriguez, the Astros posted an 86.5 mph average exit velocity.

Contact Evan Petzold at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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