Tigers aim to bounce back, begin set versus Astros

Anibal Sanchez hopes to avoid a third straight losing start on Monday evening when the Detroit Tigers try to rebound in the opener of a three-game series with the Houston Astros, a team they swept in four games to begin the month.

Sanchez has dropped back-to-back outings since his 17-strikeout win over the Atlanta Braves on April 26. He is coming off a loss at the Washington Nationals on Wednesday, when he allowed three runs -- two earned -- on eight hits over six innings with eight strikeouts.

Despite the quality outing, the right-handed Sanchez dipped to 3-3 in seven starts this season with a 1.97 earned run average. The run support has been inconsistent as Detroit has scored 27 runs in his three victories and just six in the 29-year-old's other four outings.

Sanchez has faced the Astros seven times in his career and is 3-1 against them with a 2.08 ERA.

The Tigers have lost four of their last five games, including the final two contests of a three-game set with the Cleveland Indians. Those back-to-back one-run setbacks leave Detroit tied with Cleveland atop the AL Central with identical 20-15 records.

The Tigers were on the verge of winning Sunday's rubber match, but closer Jose Valverde allowed a game-tying RBI single to Michael Brantley in the top of the ninth inning before the Tribe's Mark Reynolds delivered a pinch-hit, two-out single that plated the go-ahead run in the 10th frame.

Brayan Pena had three hits, including a two-run homer for the Tigers. Starter Rick Porcello was charged with two runs on four hits and struck out six over six innings of work.

"It's one of those days where it's going to happen," Pena said of the blown save. "I mean, Valverde is our closer and we're very happy to have him. He's one of those guys that tomorrow he's going to be back on the mound ready to see what happens."

What Detroit hopes will happen is a repeat of its series with Houston from May 2-5, a four-game road sweep by the Tigers. Detroit has won five straight and 10 of the previous 13 encounters dating all the way back to 2000.

The Astros come in having lost four straight following a three-game sweep at the hands of the Texas Rangers. Houston was handed a 12-7 defeat in Sunday's finale, scoring six runs over the final two frames.

Jordan Lyles, though, didn't give his team a chance by allowing eight runs on 11 hits and three walks over four innings of work as the Astros lost for the 10th time in their last 12.

"The loss is definitely on my shoulders, and I've got to do a better job of competing," Lyles said.

Jason Castro hit a solo home run and added a run-scoring single, Chris Carter connected on a three-run homer and Brandon Barnes had a two-run shot in defeat.

Taking the hill for the Astros will be right-hander Bud Norris, who tries to win consecutive decisions for the first time this season.

Norris is coming off an outstanding effort versus the LA Angels of Anaheim on Wednesday, logging a season-high eight-plus innings while scattering a run on nine hits and a walk. He was helped out by three double plays in earning a 3-1 win.

The 28-year-old has allowed more than three runs in just one of his eight starts this season, going 4-3 with a 3.40 ERA.

Norris had faced the Tigers for the first time in his career an outing before beating the Angels and did not factor into a 4-3 loss on May 3. He yielded a pair of runs over seven innings and fanned a season-high seven batters.