- Associated Press - Saturday, May 23, 2015

DETROIT (AP) - The Houston Astros were having a miserable defensive inning. Two mistakes - one mental, one physical - had left Detroit with men on first and second, nobody out and one run already in against rookie Lance McCullers.

“I’m thinking we’re in trouble,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “We had no outs, we had the bullpen getting ready, so we had a lot of action going. And then (Ian) Kinsler hits it to probably the perfect spot.”

Kinsler hit a ground ball to that perfect spot near third base that turned into a triple play in the fifth, and McCullers went on to earn his first career victory Saturday, leading the Astros over the Detroit Tigers 3-2.

Detroit led 2-1 when Kinsler hit the grounder to Jonathan Villar, who stepped on third and threw to second. Jose Altuve relayed the ball to first.

“There’s nothing you can really do about that, just a one-hopper right on top of the base,” Kinsler said. “It was basically a perfect ball for a triple play.”

It was Houston’s first triple play since 2004, and the Astros followed that up by scoring two runs in the sixth to go ahead.

McCullers (1-0) allowed two runs and six hits with six strikeouts over six innings in the right-hander’s second career start.

The Houston bullpen did not allow a baserunner. Luke Gregerson pitched the ninth for his 11th save in 12 chances.

Kyle Lobstein (3-5) gave up three runs in 5 2-3 innings.

The triple play was a highlight of what was generally a sloppy game.

McCullers threw a wild pitch during an intentional walk in the third, and it looked like Houston’s defense might cost the Astros the game in the fifth. After James McCann led off with a double, Jose Iglesias reached on an infield single when McCullers failed to cover first on a grounder to the right side.

Anthony Gose followed with a grounder to second that looked like a potential double play - but Altuve threw wildly to second for an error. McCann scored to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.

But with Miguel Cabrera looming on deck, Kinsler hit his grounder to third, and McCullers was suddenly out of the inning.

“I saw Villar step on third and throw it to second, and I was thinking, you know, maybe we had a chance,” McCullers said.

Houston’s most recent triple play had been Aug. 19, 2004. That one also went 5-4-3 on a grounder by Philadelphia’s Todd Pratt.

Altuve opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the third, then Detroit answered in the bottom half on Gose’s RBI double to center. Gose was convinced he’d hit a home run, jogging to first and then speeding up after the ball hit the wall. He ended up with a double.

Had he been on third, he might have been able to score on Kinsler’s lineout to center, but instead, Detroit had to settle for one run that inning.

After the triple play, the AL West-leading Astros went ahead in the sixth when Preston Tucker, Chris Carter, Jason Castro and Marwin Gonzalez hit consecutive two-out singles.

Detroit’s Rajai Davis made a bid to tie it in the eighth as a pinch-hitter, sending a drive to left that a leaping Colby Rasmus caught at the fence. Rasmus had just entered as a defensive replacement.


McCullers had foam on the back of his shirt and in his hair when he talked to reporters - the remnants of a postgame celebration for his first win.

“Shaving cream, ketchup - not really sure what else,” he said.


The bullpens for both the Tigers and Astros have exceeded expectations this year, and that was evident Saturday. Reliever Al Alburquerque allowed Gonzalez’s single that gave Houston the lead, but that was the only baserunner either bullpen gave up.

Seven of Houston’s final nine hitters struck out.


Astros: Reliever Samuel Deduno (lower back strain) threw off the mound Saturday. He’s expected to throw another bullpen session during the team’s next stop in Baltimore.

Tigers: Iglesias bruised his left knee when he made contact with Carter at first on an infield single in the third. He left the game two innings later.


Houston will try to salvage a split of this four-game series Sunday, sending RHP Roberto Hernandez (2-3) to the mound against RHP Anibal Sanchez (3-5).

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