HOUSTON -- The jarring sound of two home runs in the first inning appeared to have the necessary effect on Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander: They forced him into a more effective mode of pitching.
Nick Castellanos and Jarrod Saltalamacchia recorded multihit games and combined for a decisive sixth-inning rally in the Detroit Tigers' 5-3 victory over the Houston Astros on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park.
Castellanos finished 3-for-5 while Saltalamacchia went 2-for-5 with a pair of RBIs to back Verlander (1-1), who survived a rocky start to work six quality innings and outlast Astros right-hander Collin McHugh (1-2).
Verlander allowed three of his seven hits in the first inning and all three of his earned runs, capping his outing with eight strikeouts against two walks. The Astros (4-8) stranded four runners against Verlander, who induced an inning-ending double play to complete his evening.
"I think with our offense, you give up three early and it's like, 'OK, if I can settle down and keep us in this game we still got a chance to win,'" Verlander said. 'So that was my main focus. You can't think about what's already happened. You've got to think about moving forward. So I was able to make pitches the rest of the night and pitch pretty well the rest of the evening."
Justin Wilson and Mark Lowe worked scoreless innings in advance of Rodriguez, who recorded his 389th save, one behind Dennis Eckersley for sixth all-time. The rubber match of the three-game series is Sunday.
After failing to convert their early traffic on Friday night against Tigers starter Mike Pelfrey, the Astros were quick to jump on Verlander when he wobbled early, cashing in on three hard-hit balls in their first at-bat.
George Springer followed a Jose Altuve single with a two-run homer off the left-field foul pole, taking advantage of a distracted Verlander, who was clearly concerned with the prospect of Altuve swiping second.
Verlander appeared to rebound with a pair of strikeouts, but his 0-1 pitch to Tyler White yielded another homer, this one a solo shot with two outs that bumped the Houston lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the first.
"It's obviously good to open up with the lead but it's not how you start," said Springer, who finished 3-for-4. "We understand that we have to keep scoring some runs. But he (Verlander) did a good job slowing us down. Just have to tip your hat."
What saved Verlander was his success against left-handed hitters. Colby Rasmus, Preston Tucker, Luis Valbuena and Jason Castro finished 1-for-10 against him, with Valbuena and Castro striking out with a runner in scoring position in the fourth inning and Rasmus swinging through strike three with Springer on first to close the fifth inning.
"I think the changeup and the curveball both help when attacking the left-handed hitter," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He had a good changeup tonight."
Castellanos and Saltalamacchia did in McHugh, combining to hit 5-for-6 with three RBIs and two runs against him. Saltalamacchia followed a leadoff double by Castellanos in the sixth inning with a home run off the right-field foul pole, giving Detroit a 4-3 lead. One out later McHugh was gone, leaving with seven strikeouts and no walks but 10 hits allowed.
"You don't want to put yourself in too many jams as a starting pitcher," McHugh said. "Maybe one or two an outing you can get through and usually make it happen, but they had guys on bases all night. So I felt like we were making high-stress pitches from the jump."
NOTES: The Tigers had their streak of scoring at least four runs in every game snapped on Friday night. Their eight-game streak was tied for the longest to start a season since 1913 with the 2004 Detroit squad. ... Astros RHP Lance McCullers could resume baseball activities on Sunday or Monday after having his scheduled start for Double-A Corpus Christi skipped. McCullers, placed on the 15-day disabled list on March 25 (right shoulder soreness), is battling recovery issues between rehab appearances. ... Tigers LHP Blaine Hardy took a significant step forward in his injury rehab on Friday night by working consecutive games. After pitching a scoreless inning with Triple-A Toledo on Thursday, Hardy recorded two outs for the Mud Hens Friday night, with a walk and a strikeout. Hardy has been on the 15-day disabled list since March 25 with a left shoulder impingement.