Robbie Ray got into trouble two batters into his major-league debut. The 22-year-old left-hander did not get flustered and his Detroit Tigers teammates rewarded him with their best offensive night of the season.
Ray held the Houston Astros scoreless until the sixth inning to lead the Tigers to their seventh straight victory, an 11-4 pounding on Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
First baseman Miguel Cabrera had four hits and drove in four runs as Detroit rapped a season-high 18 hits. The Tigers' run total was also a season high.
"When your team is putting up runs behind you, you can pitch more aggressively," said Ray, who was acquired from the Washington Nationals in an offseason trade. "It's big to have that run support."
He showed some moxie after Houston put runners on the corners in the first. After giving up a bloop double to second baseman Jose Altuve, Ray was late covering the bag on center fielder Dexter Fielder's routine grounder to first. Ray recovered to strike out catcher Jason Castro and designated hitter Chris Carter, and he retired first baseman Jesus Guzman on a groundout.
"I just told myself to settle down, calm down because it's probably on you for not getting over quick enough to first base," he said. "You got yourself in it, you've got to get yourself out of it."
Astros manager Bo Porter suspected his team was in for a long night after coming up empty.
"That was the big inning," he said. "You have a guy making his major-league debut, you get him on the ropes with first and third and the middle of the lineup coming up. You feel like if you push a couple of runs across, it's a different ballgame. To his credit, he was able to make quality pitches, come out of it unscathed and went on to have a good performance."
Ray, who allowed one run on five hits while striking out five, retired 10 consecutive batters after giving up a leadoff single in the second. Putting his trust in catcher Alex Avila helped Ray stay poised.
"He didn't shake me off one time today," Avila said. "I was glad I put down the right fingers for him and he executed and made the right pitches."
Ray was filling in for Anibal Sanchez, who is on the disabled list with a right middle finger laceration.
Cabrera, who smacked his third homer of the season, lifted his average to .293.
"When most guys struggle, they're hitting .200. When he's struggling, he's hitting .280," Avila said. "The thing about Miguel, when he's going well, he's hitting to all fields. It's difficult to be able to hit to all fields in the same game"
Shortstop Danny Worth contributed two hits, two runs scored and three RBIs. Second baseman Ian Kinsler supplied three hits and right fielder Torii Hunter, third baseman Nick Castellanos and Avila added two apiece. Every batter in the Tigers' lineup had at least one hit for the fourth time in five games.
With San Francisco losing to Pittsburgh on Tuesday, the Tigers own the majors' longest active winning streak.
Astros starter Brett Oberholtzer (0-6) allowed four runs on nine hits in six innings while taking the loss. Porter felt Oberholtzer hung tough through a 105-pitch night but couldn't say the same for his bullpen, which allowed seven runs in the last two innings.
"Extremely troubled," Porter said of his relief corps. "When you look at it, it's a 4-1 ballgame. Their bullpen comes in and pretty much keeps the game right there until the last inning and our bullpen was not able to keep the game right there. They were able to get tack-on runs and put the game out of reach."
Rookie right fielder George Springer had three hits, scored a run and drove in another for Houston.
NOTES: Tigers RF Torii Hunter extended his hitting streak to 13 games with his first-inning double. He is tied with Baltimore's Nick Markakis for the American League's longest active streak. ... Detroit LF Rajai Davis was not in the starting lineup because manager Brad Ausmus wanted to give J.D. Martinez a start. "I'd like to be able to play four outfielders," Ausmus said. ... RHP Jarred Cosart on Monday became the first Houston starter to lose a game in which he gave up no earned runs while pitching at least seven innings since Mark Portugal dropped a similar game on Sept. 9, 1991. ... Astros LHP Raul Valdez, who was designated for assignment Sunday, cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Oklahoma City. ... The Tigers made room for Tuesday's starter, LHP Robbie Ray, by optioning RHP Jose Ortega to Triple-A Toledo.