Ian Kinsler hit a three-run homer with two outs in the ninth inning to rally the Detroit Tigers past the Houston Astros 4-3 in dramatic fashion on Saturday.
Kinsler launched a 2-0 fastball off Astros reliever Jerome Williams into the seats in left-center to give the Tigers their eighth win in nine games. The home run traveled an estimated 426 feet. Kinsler also had a double in his seventh straight multihit game and 33rd this season.
Detroit’s Max Scherzer, who entered Saturday with a 6.15 ERA over his last seven starts, struck out a season-high 13 batters in seven excellent innings. Scherzer threw 73 of his 112 pitches for strikes. Coming into the game Saturday, the Astros lineup had hit a combined 3 for 42 lifetime against Scherzer, who struck out nine and gave up just three hits in eight shutout innings when he last faced Houston on May 5.
It was the third time Scherzer has fanned at least 13 in his career, and his most strikeouts since he had a career-high 15 in 2012 against Pittsburgh.
The last time a Tigers pitcher fanned this many and lost in a game that didn’t go extra innings came when Mickey Lolich fanned 13 and lost to Boston in September of the Great Race of 1967.
Astros manager Bo Porter struck out in some unconventional relief-pitcher strategy. Porter summoned his closer, Chad Qualls, to face the Tigers big hitters in the eighth, leaving Williams, who has allowed at least one run in eight of his last 11 appearances, to pitch the ninth.
Phil Coke relieved Scherzer and worked a 1-2-3 eighth inning with one strikeout. Coke hasn’t allowed a run to score in his last six appearances, spanning 5 1/3 innings. He was credited with the win.
Closer Joe Nathan allowed a leadoff homer in the ninth to Alex Gonzalez to make it a one-run game. He then got a pop-out from Matt Dominguez, fanned Chris Carter (13 homers), and retired Marwin Gonzalez on a fly to center for the final out.
Kinsler drilled the game winning homer off the same pillar where Tigers manager Brad Ausmus landed the biggest homer of his career. It also came with his team losing and two out in the ninth, in Game 4 of the 2005 division series against Atlanta. With a win, the Braves would have sent the series back to Atlanta for a decisive Game 5; instead, the Astros won in 18 innings to advance to the championship series.