Houston – It was going to be a challenge, no getting around that.
Whatever break they got from missing Astros ace Dallas Keuchel (disabled list) was offset by the merciless Sunday night travel. The Tigers, after getting beat by the Rangers Sunday night at Comerica Park, didn’t get to their hotel in downtown Houston until 5 a.m. Monday.
And some 14 hours later, their bats were still snoozing.
The combination of Brad Peacock, Chris Devenski, Will Harris and Ken Giles combined to allow one measly single – in the second inning by Mikie Mahtook – and the Astros took the first of a four-game series, 1-0, becoming the first team in baseball to 30 wins.
“We knew we’ve got a tough schedule,” Miguel Cabrera said. “We knew May was going to be tough for us. If we can handle May, I think we’re going to be OK the rest of the season.”
When the Tigers finish this 11-game trip, they will have played 20 road games in six different cities in 21 days this month.
“That’s too much for a team this early, but we’re going to grind,” Cabrera said. “We’re not going to put excuses on it. We’ve got to battle and do our job better. Hopefully we can get some rest tonight and come back tomorrow and try to get a win.”
It was the third time this season the Tigers have been shutout. And, going back to Sunday’s loss, they have not scored a run in 16 innings combined.
“I’ve played on teams that got no sleep and scored double-digit runs,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “You just don’t want to do it like this regularly. I don’t think (the overnight flight) was much of an effect today. More, it was their pitching. They were outstanding.”
Peacock, whom the Tigers hadn’t faced as a team since 2014, was filling in for Keuchel, who has a pinched nerve in his neck. Featuring a slow, Frisbee-like slider, a knuckle curve and a change-up, he had the Tigers guessing and flailing for 4.1 innings.
“He was so much different than when I faced him before,” Cabrera said. “In 2014, he threw a lot of fastballs. Today it was slider, breaking ball and his change-up was really good.”
Detroit News sportswriters Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo and Lynn Henning break down the Detroit Tigers' season after 42 games. Detroit News
Cabrera struck out and walked against Peacock, who fanned eight and didn’t allow many, if any, hard-hit balls.
“I got the walk and he threw me a couple of screw(ball) change-ups,” Cabrera said. “I mean, I am glad I didn’t swing at those because I am going to be out. He changed speeds and located his ball very good. He pitched a good game.”
Things didn’t improve against the others Astros hurlers – all right-handers. The closest the Tigers came to scoring was in the seventh inning when Astros’ George Springer went back to the wall in center field to haul in Cabrera’s fly ball.
“No, no, no,” Cabrera said, when asked if he thought he hit it well enough to get out. “It was too deep into my body. I didn’t get any extension. I knew it was just a lazy fly ball.”
A 400-plus foot lazy fly ball.
In all, the Tigers struck out 14 times. Alex Avila fanned four times.
“Today I can’t look at our hitters and say they had a bad day,” Ausmus said. “I just think their team had a really good day on the mound.”
It was a tough break for Tigers starter Michael Fulmer, who deserved a better fate – though he disagreed.
“That’s on me,” he said. “The one walk I had tonight scored, so I need to do a better job of not walking anybody. I am upset at myself for that. You’ve got to pitch to what your offense is doing. It’s nobody’s fault.
“Obviously, their guys were better than me today.”
Fulmer walked George Springer to start the first and he scored on a one-out, RBI double by Jose Altuve. After that, it was six straight zeros. And a seventh by reliever Shane Greene.
“We are kind of getting accustomed to him giving us a chance to win every five days,” Ausmus said. “Today was nothing different. We just couldn’t get any runs. Fulmer has picked up in 2017 where he left off last year.”
It was a battle, though. He gave up eight hits in seven innings and only had one clean inning. But he consistently made the clutch pitches to extricate himself from trouble.
With two runners on in the third, he got Altuve and Carlos Correa.
The first two runners reached in the seventh. And as his pitch count climbed over 100, Fulmer struck out Alex Bregman and Springer and got Josh Reddick to pop to shortstop.
“I felt good,” Fulmer said. “I felt my slider again. My change-up was good. Even the ones that got hit were quality pitches. Altuve hit a change-up, just a ground ball down the line. Nothing you can do about that.”
It was Fulmer’s ninth straight quality start to begin the season, tying Tommy Bridges (1942) for the second longest streak in Tigers history behind Justin Verlander’s 10 straight. Fulmer lowered his ERA from 2.72 to 2.55, and came away feeling unfulfilled.