Detroit — The Tigers offense sputtered early, largely because of the double-play ball, which has been an albatross this season.
They grounded into two double plays in first two innings, bringing their league-leading total to 44. They also lead the league in runs lost to double plays.
And that was foremost on manager Brad Ausmus' mind when he had Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera running with one out and J.D. Martinez at bat in the fifth. The Tigers already had scored two runs and were poised for a big inning.
"Yeah," he said when asked if he was trying to avoid a double play by sending the runners. "There's a lot of contact against (Astros starter Scott) Feldman. The danger when you run is the strikeout or line drive. But he's a ground-ball pitcher and there's a lot of contact.
"If you are moving, you know if there's contact on the ground you avoid the double play, or, because the infield is moving to cover the steal, maybe the ball finds a hole."
None of the above. Martinez hit a line shot that was run down in right field by George Springer. It was yet another double play.
The Tigers have hit into double plays in 11 straight games.
Around the horn
… J.D. Martinez served as the designated hitter Thursday, and things didn't go so well. He had two strikeouts and hit into two double plays — six outs in his first four at-bats. He also left five runners on base. He wound up 0-for-5. It snapped his 11-game hitting streak.
…Yoenis Cespedes, after going 3-for-3 with a walk Wednesday, went 3-for-3 with two walks Thursday. He's also stole two bases and scored four runs in those two games.
… Bruce Rondon threw his first rehab outing Thursday in Toledo. He is scheduled to throw another on Sunday. He will need to make at least two more appearances before he's ready to be activated. "I don't want to rush him," Ausmus said. "A couple of extra outings will benefit him more than hurt him."
… Justin Verlander is scheduled to throw a bullpen session before the game Friday.