Slumping Astros try to recover against Tigers

Two teams traveling in opposite directions get together at Minute Maid Park on Saturday night as the slumping Houston Astros entertain the Detroit Tigers in the third game of a four-game set.

Houston, which has made the transition to the American League from the NL, has found the move rather rocky and at this point is tied for the fewest wins in the majors with Miami at eight. Already 10 1/2 games out of contention in the AL West, the Astros fell for the fourth straight time and dropped their eighth in the last nine outings with their 4-3 setback on Friday.

Holding a 3-2 advantage heading into the ninth inning, the Astros turned to Jose Veras to close out the contest, but he gave up two runs on just one hit and a walk as Alex Avila delivered with a one-out, two-run home run that also scored Don Kelly.

"It felt amazing," Avila said of his fourth home run of the season. "I'm sure my expression on the field said it all. When you're struggling and you do something good on the field, it feels good."

Bud Norris pitched a solid seven innings for the hosts, permitting two runs on five hits and three walks, fanning seven, but the bullpen failed to hold up his effort.

Jose Altuve logged three hits for the hosts, another two coming from Matt Dominguez.

Picking up the win for the Tigers was Drew Smyly, while the save went to Jose Valverde. Doug Fister didn't factor into the decision, as the starter scattered nine hits, leading to a pair of earned runs, while striking out four over six innings of action.

"You got to keep it close," said Smyly. "They had a chance to break it open. We had to keep it close. A one-run game in the ninth, anything can happen. That home run was awesome."

Ahead of Kansas City for first place in the AL Central by only a half game, Detroit has won two straight and seven of the last eight overall.

Coming off his third double-digit strikeout effort of the season on Monday, Max Scherzer is set to take the hill again for the Tigers tonight. The right- hander, already 1-1 in his career versus Houston, registered his third win in as many decisions earlier this week when Detroit recorded a 4-3 victory over Minnesota at home.

In that outing Scherzer lasted 7 1/3 innings, giving up three runs on six hits, while striking out 10 without issuing a single base-on-balls. The Missouri product now has 46 strikeouts through 31 1/3 innings, against only seven walks.

As for the Astros, they have right-hander Lucas Harrell preparing to counter on the mound. Harrell, who started his major league career with the Chicago White Sox but has yet to record a decision against Detroit, has won three straight outings heading into the weekend.

Earlier this week Harrell allowed just one run on eight hits and a walk through 6 1/3 innings of action in a 9-1 victory over the Yankees in New York. The Astros have generated a total of 22 runs in the three wins for Harrell but only seven in the other three outings for the hurler.

Detroit swept the Astros in their three-game set at home back in 2006 before losing two of three in Houston during the 2009 campaign.