Houston Astros' Preston Tucker (20) celebrates his three-run home run against the Detroit Tigers with Jonathan Villar (2) during the sixth inning of a baseball game Sunday, May 24, 2015, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
Detroit Tigers pitcher Anibal Sanchez kicks the mound as Houston Astros' Preston Tucker, left, rounds the bases after hitting a three-run home run during the sixth inning of a baseball game Sunday, May 24, 2015, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson)
DETROIT — Preston Tucker's major league career is just over two weeks old, and already he's hit a pair of big home runs.
What's surprising — at least to him — is that both came when the 24-year-old outfielder was pinch hitting.
"I don't necessarily feel comfortable pinch hitting. Once I step into the box, I feel the same, but just the process of it is something I'm not really used to," Tucker said. "That's pretty cool that I've been able to help us win."
It was Tucker's second game-tying homer of the series. He hit one as a pinch hitter in the ninth inning Thursday, although the Astros ended up losing. Those are his only two home runs since being called up to the majors earlier this month.
"He dominated Triple-A — he didn't get here by accident," Houston's Evan Gattis said. "Just glad to see him getting an opportunity up here, and glad to see him making the most of it."
Gattis also homered during a four-run sixth for the Astros, when they wiped out a 7-3 deficit. The following inning, Jason Castro lined a tiebreaking two-run single with the bases loaded and two out.
Joe Thatcher (1-1) got the win by pitching the sixth — the first of four innings of work by the Houston bullpen. Luke Gregerson allowed a homer to Miguel Cabrera in the ninth, but held on for his 12th save in 13 chances.
Detroit reliever Alex Wilson (1-1) took the loss.
The AL West-leading Astros have hit a major league-leading 64 home runs. They won the last two games of this four-game series to salvage a split.
Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez again had trouble keeping the ball in the park. The two homers he allowed in the sixth brought his season total to 11 — after he gave up 13 over the previous two years combined.
"I thought all my pitches were working well today. Even the two homers were both down — really down — and they just put good swings on them," Sanchez said. "(Gattis) was a slider down, and the other guy hit a changeup that was down. You have to give them credit."
Detroit led 5-3 after a wild first inning. Sanchez and Houston starter Roberto Hernandez settled in a bit after that, but both were out of the game by the bottom of the sixth.
Gattis led off the top of that inning with his ninth home run of the year. With men on second and third and two out, Tucker hit a drive that easily cleared the wall in right to tie the game at 7.
The Astros loaded the bases with two out in the seventh, and Castro lined a single to right off Angel Nesbitt, Detroit's third pitcher of the inning.
Sanchez allowed seven runs for the second consecutive start, his ERA rising to 6.12. He did strike out 11.
Sanchez allowed three runs in the first on a two-run triple by Gattis and a balk that brought Gattis home from third.
Detroit answered with five in the bottom half, including a three-run double by Bryan Holaday.
Hernandez allowed seven runs and nine hits in five innings. He walked three and struck out five.
The Astros struck out 15 times. From the start of the fourth inning through the second out of the seventh, all 11 of Houston's outs were strikeouts.
Astros: Marwin Gonzalez was shaken up after colliding with Holaday, the Detroit catcher. What was strange was that the play was at second base. Gonzalez hit an RBI single to right to make it 10-7 in the eighth, and the Tigers caught him in a rundown between first and second. But Detroit momentarily left second base unattended, and when Holaday hustled over to cover it, Gonzalez slid in safely and hurt himself. He was able to stay in the game.
Tigers: Kyle Lobstein (sore left shoulder) was put on the 15-day DL after pitching 5 2-3 innings in Saturday's start.
Dallas Keuchel (6-0) of the Astros tries to keep his unbeaten run going when he faces Wei-Yin Chen (1-3) of the Orioles in Baltimore on Monday.
Detroit heads west to begin a road trip. Shane Greene (4-2) of the Tigers faces Jesse Hahn (1-4) of Oakland.
All content copyright ©2015 Daily Journal, a division of Home News Enterprises unless otherwise noted.