DETROIT -- Considering they figured to have their hands full with reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer, the Astros really couldn't afford to make the kinds of gaffes they made in Monday's series opener against the Tigers.
The miscues -- from a dropped throw at first base by Marc Krauss in the seventh to Dexter Fowler getting thrown out trying to advance on a pitch in the dirt in the ninth -- loomed large and only helped strengthen Scherzer's stranglehold on the Astros.
Scherzer struck out nine batters in eight scoreless innings, allowing just three hits, to overshadow a terrific start by Houston's Jarred Cosart and send the Astros to their third consecutive loss, 2-0, at Comerica Park.
"He's a Cy Young Award winner for a reason, but I felt Jarred did a great job matching him pitch for pitch and ended up taking a tough loss," Astros manager Bo Porter said.
Cosart (1-3) held the Tigers to one unearned run and four hits in seven innings in his third consecutive quality start. Since allowing seven earned runs in one-third of an inning on April 18 in Oakland, Cosart has given up only four earned runs and 13 hits in 19 2/3 innings (1.83 ERA), but he doesn't have any wins in that span.
"Everyone in the locker room wants to win," Cosart said. "My job as a starting pitcher, all I can do, hopefully from here on out, is [throw] seven, eight [innings], instead of six, seven. Just keep us in the game. We had some opportunities and just couldn't push a run across. A lot of credit goes over there to Max. He's one of the best in the game, and he showed that tonight."
Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter, a close friend of Porter, was complimentary of Houston.
"They're a young team over there, and they have all the tools, the potential," Hunter said. "They're going to get better the more time they put on the field and play the game. I think they're going to pick up on some things. They might need some veteran guys over there to kind of help them along the way, but their aggressiveness is pretty impressive -- the way they swing the bat, the way they run the bases. You have to be careful with teams like that."
The Astros were 4-0 this year in games started by a former Cy Young Award winner before Scherzer shut them down. He has struck out at least seven batters in each of his first seven starts this year, which is two starts shy of tying the AL record.
"It felt like my normal mix [of pitches] to me," Scherzer said. "They're a very aggressive team. Sometimes you have to mix in offspeed early in the count. When you're out there attacking the zone, that's when good things happen."
The game was scoreless through six innings before an error on Krauss helped the Tigers push across the go-ahead run. Krauss dropped a rather routine throw at first base from third baseman Matt Dominguez to allow Nick Castellanos to reach base, and he wound up scoring on a Rajai Davis single.
"I think I just took my eye off it a little too soon, and it never stuck to my glove," Krauss said. "It's a bad time for an error like that, leading off an inning. Cosart is pitching such a great game in a tight battle. Bad time, so it's frustrating, definitely."
Still, the Astros mounted a rally against Scherzer in the eighth when Krauss led off with a walk and Jonathan Villar singled one out later. But Jose Altuve swung through a 3-2 breaking ball, and Tigers catcher Alex Avila threw out pinch-runner Marwin Gonzalez easily at third for a double play on what Porter said was a "run-and-hit."
"You have your best bat-handler in the batters' box who hits a lot of ground balls, and two guys that can run on the bases," Porter said. "You figure you get the infield moving and you hit a ground ball and it might find its way through. Worst-case scenario, you stay out of the double play. Altuve is not a guy that strikes out a bunch. He normally puts the ball in play. That particular time, he expanded his zone and struck out."
After Victor Martinez homered off Detroit-area product Anthony Bass in the eighth to make it 2-0, Fowler drew a walk off reliever Joe Nathan to start the ninth. Fowler tried to advance to second base on ball that bounced, but Avila threw him out on a close play that Porter unsuccessfully challenged.
"In that situation, you've got to be able to make it standing up," Porter said. "Your run really doesn't mean anything. You need another guy to get on base. You're down by two. You probably want to make sure you can get in there standing up."
It didn't help Fowler that the ball bounced and appeared to wedge itself in Avila's gear.
"I thought I got a good read on it," Fowler said. "The guy made a hell of a play."
Cosart, who threw more changeups Monday at the suggestion of pitching coach Brent Strom, was every bit as good as Scherzer through seven innings, yet he still hasn't won since holding the Yankees scoreless for five innings on April 2.
"You see why he's won a Cy Young," Cosart said of Scherzer. "He made big pitches when it counted and just kind of cruised through the game, but when he hit his rough patches he was able to get out of it unscathed. You know it's going to be a low-scoring game -- or you hope -- so you go out there and try and match what he does, and for the most part, I did."