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HOU@NYY: Harrell limits Yanks' bats over 6 1/3 frames

The Astros have struggled to win games, but with Lucas Harrell on the mound, it's been a different story.

Harrell will get the start on Saturday night at Minute Maid Park as the Astros host the Tigers in the third of a four-game series. He finds himself in the familiar position of trying to stop a losing streak.

Houston has dropped four straight games since Harrell's last outing on Monday against the Yankees. The right-hander, who 3-2 with a 3.60 ERA on the season, has pitched in three of the club's four wins since April 13.

Harrell owns a 1.83 ERA in his past four outings heading into Saturday's matchup with Max Scherzer. In his last start, Harrell used his sinker to induce three double-play grounders in the first four innings and gave up one run in 6 1/3 innings.

"I've been working on trying to get more ground balls and inducing early contact, and [shortstop Ronny] Cedeno and [second baseman Jose] Altuve and [third baseman Matt] Dominguez, they all played great defense behind me," Harrell said. "It makes it easy for me when you know you can get a ground ball and those guys are turning double plays."

Detroit has won seven of its past eight games, but it hasn't had an easy time in the first two in Houston. The Tigers needed 14 innings on Thursday and a ninth-inning comeback on Friday.

Not counting extra innings, Houston's pitchers have allowed seven runs in two games. How will they continue to hold Detroit's potent lineup in check for two more games?

"Hopefully the taxi gets lost," Astros manager Bo Porter joked.

"[The Tigers] are extremely good players," Porter said. "They've been at this game a long time. They play at a real high level. You just have to make quality pitches when those guys are in the batter's box."

Offensively, the Astros will have to capitalize on the chances they have. Not only does the club lead the Major Leagues in strikeouts, but Scherzer ranks second among all pitchers with 13.21 strikeouts per nine innings.

The right-hander, 3-0 with a 4.02 ERA, has three double-digit strikeout performances so far this season. One of those came against the Twins on Monday, when Scherzer gave up three runs in 7 1/3 innings while racking up 10 Ks.

Tigers: Jackson gets rare day off
Center fielder Austin Jackson was not in the starting lineup on Friday for the first time this season, although he did come off the bench late in the game as a defensive replacement. Jackson, who had led off and played center in each of Detroit's first 27 contests, has been fighting a sore hamstring.

Jackson is riding an eight-game hitting streak, during which he has batted .344 with three doubles and a home run.

• Tigers pitchers combined for six strikeouts on Friday, ending an American League-record streak of seven straight games with at least 10 punchouts.

Astros: A hiccup for Veras
Jose Veras' blown save on Friday, in which he gave up a two-run homer to Alex Avila, snapped a string of six straight scoreless appearances, spanning 6 1/3 innings. The right-hander had struck out nine, walked none and allowed three hits during that stretch.

The Astros' closer has received only four save opportunities this season and blown two of them.

• Astros catchers entered Friday leading the AL with a .307 batting average before Carlos Corporan went 0-for-4. Corporan was catching in place of Jason Castro, who started at designated hitter and went 0-for-5 to snap a career-high nine-game hitting streak.

Worth noting
• Scherzer hasn't faced the Astros since 2009, when he started twice against them, including once at Minute Maid Park. Only three current Astros -- Rick Ankiel, Cedeno and Carlos Pena -- have batted against Scherzer.

• Harrell pitched in two games and started one against the Tigers while a member of the White Sox in 2010. He gave up seven runs, three earned, over nine innings.

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