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Tigers' Mike Pelfrey endures shaky start to last six innings

HOUSTON -- It was far from a banner night for Detroit Tigers pitcher Mike Pelfrey.

The 32-year-old starter endured some tough moments early in the Tigers' 1-0 loss to the Houston Astros on Friday night. He walked four of the first 10 batters he faced and found himself in a pair of bases-loaded jams in the first two innings. Pelfrey was visibly agitated, so much so that pitching coach Rich Dubee came out twice before the second inning was over to diffuse a player who seemed fraught with his inability to throw strikes.

Few would have imagined that Pelfrey would have rebounded to last six innings. An even smaller percentage would have predicted he’d make it out of the game surrendering just one run.

“Pretty terrible fastball command,” Pelfrey lamented following his second outing of the season, asking reporters if the six walks he gave up was a career high (it was).

Pelfrey settled down after his shaky start, however, to improve as the game went on, employing his splitter and inducing ground balls to keep the Astros' lineup at bay. The defense behind him was superb, turning three double plays on the night. The Tigers' defense has turned a double play in eight straight games, which ties the longest streak in franchise history, dating back to September 2008.

“Our defense, I know it’s not fun to play behind when a guy’s all over the place and walking guys and all that stuff, but the defense made some huge plays, so I tip my hat to these guys in here for that,” Pelfrey said.

Pelfrey finished the day having thrown 104 pitches and, according to manager Brad Ausmus, he was prepared to go back out for the seventh inning if needed. Ausmus opted to use reliever Buck Farmer instead, but was pleased that Pelfrey was able to provide some length, especially considering the team was short on bullpen help following the club’s home-and-home set against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“He did a good job of finding a way,” Ausmus said. “Sometimes you just have to find a way, and he did.”

The Tigers' bats, however, did not against reigning AL Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, who pitched eight scoreless innings to pick up his second win of the season and extend his home winning streak to 17 games, dating back to the 2014 season.

Ian Kinsler, who is now .308 in his career against Keuchel, began the game with a leadoff single but got thrown out trying to make it to third on Miguel Cabrera's single to right-center.

‘”I didn’t think he hesitated. He took a shot. That’s part of baseball,” Ausmus said. “Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

Ausmus said he wasn’t concerned with Pelfrey’s early struggles and instead considered them “an anomaly."

But Pelfrey wasn’t satisfied with his first start as a Tiger and he wasn’t too pleased with his overall performance Friday, either.

“[Catcher Jarrod] Saltalamacchia had to babysit for six innings and we were able to get through it,” Pelfrey said. “The guys on the other side was pretty good, and obviously, you know, I wasn’t good enough tonight.”