DETROIT — Of all the Detroit players who might hit into a triple play, Ian Kinsler was not a likely candidate.
Kinsler, after all, runs pretty well, but when he hit a groundball right at third base with men on first and second, the Houston Astros pulled off that rare defensive feat.
"There's nothing you can really do about that, just a one-hopper right on top of the base," Kinsler said. "It was basically a perfect ball for a triple play."
Kinsler's grounder in the fifth inning ended the last big rally by the Tigers, and Houston scored two runs in the sixth to win 3-2 on Saturday.
"I'm thinking we're in trouble," Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. "We had no outs, we had the bullpen getting ready, so we had a lot of action going. And then (Ian) Kinsler hits it to probably the perfect spot."
It was Houston's first triple play since 2004, and the Astros followed that up by scoring two runs in the sixth to go ahead.
Lance McCullers (1-0) allowed two runs and six hits with six strikeouts over six innings in the right-hander's second career start. It was his first major league victory.
The Houston bullpen did not allow a baserunner. Luke Gregerson pitched the ninth for his 11th save in 12 chances.
Kyle Lobstein (3-5) gave up three runs in 5 2-3 innings.
The triple play was a highlight of what was generally a sloppy game.
McCullers threw a wild pitch during an intentional walk in the third, and it looked like Houston's defense might cost the Astros the game in the fifth. After James McCann led off with a double, Jose Iglesias reached on an infield single when McCullers failed to cover first on a grounder to the right side.
Anthony Gose followed with a grounder to second that looked like a potential double play — but Altuve threw wildly to second for an error. McCann scored to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead.
But with Miguel Cabrera looming on deck, Kinsler hit his grounder to third, and McCullers was suddenly out of the inning.
"I saw Villar step on third and throw it to second, and I was thinking, you know, maybe we had a chance," McCullers said.
Altuve opened the scoring with a sacrifice fly in the third, then Detroit answered in the bottom half on Gose's RBI double to center. Gose was convinced he'd hit a home run, jogging to first and then speeding up after the ball hit the wall near the 420-foot marker. He ended up with a double.
"Yeah this is a big park," Gose said. "I won't be jogging ever again, not (on a hit) to center field — you better be a grown man to hit it out of here."
Had Gose been on third, he might have been able to score on Kinsler's lineout to center, but instead, Detroit had to settle for one run that inning.
Detroit's Rajai Davis made a bid to tie it in the eighth as a pinch-hitter, sending a drive to left that a leaping Colby Rasmus caught at the fence. Rasmus had just entered as a defensive replacement.
TOUGH IN RELIEF
The bullpens for both the Tigers and Astros have exceeded expectations this year, and that was evident Saturday. Reliever Al Alburquerque allowed Gonzalez's single that gave Houston the lead, but that was the only baserunner either bullpen gave up.
Seven of Houston's final nine hitters struck out.
McCullers had foam on the back of his shirt and in his hair when he talked to reporters — the remnants of a postgame celebration for his first win.
"Shaving cream, ketchup — not really sure what else," he said.
Astros: Reliever Samuel Deduno (lower back strain) threw off the mound Saturday. He's expected to throw another bullpen session during the team's next stop in Baltimore.
Tigers: Iglesias bruised his left knee when he made contact with Carter at first on an infield single in the third. He left the game two innings later.
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