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HOU@DET: Springer plates a run with a double

DETROIT -- The concerns of Astros manager Bo Porter shifted late in Tuesday's game from his offense, which came alive with a three-run ninth inning, and to his bullpen, which got hit around enough to make the offensive outburst seem meaningless.

It wasn't an inability to keep the game tied or a blown save, but the struggles of Houston's bullpen remain front and center after the relievers Jose Ciserno and Josh Fields were rocked for seven runs and nine hits in 1 2/3 innings in an 11-4 loss to the Tigers at Comerica Park.

The Astros' bullpen, considered to be one of the team's strengths coming into the season, has a Major League-high 6.24 ERA, including a 12.27 mark over 11 innings in the team's last four games.

"Extremely troubled," Porter said when asked about the concern level of his bullpen.

The Astros trailed, 4-1, when starter Brett Oberholtzer left the game after six innings, but the Tigers scored twice in the seventh off Cisnero and added five in the eighth off Fields, who's allowed 14 earned runs and 14 hits in three innings over his last five appearances.

"When you look at, it's a 4-1 ballgame, and their bullpen comes in and pretty much keeps the game right there until the last inning when we were able to score some runs," Porter said. "Our bullpen was not able to keep the game right there. If our bullpen is able to keep the game right there, obviously it's a different ballgame. We're not able to do that, and they were able to get all the tack-on runs they got to put the game somewhat out of reach."

Fields, who has been working on locating pitches better, maintains he's healthy. The fact remains he's performed nothing like the pitcher that shot out of the gate with a 2.00 ERA in his first nine appearances.

"They're swinging the bat pretty well right now," Fields said. "They were just seeing it well. I don't know. I didn't feel like I was struggling out there. I felt good, the arm felt good. It was one of those days."

With veteran reliever Matt Albers set to come off the disabled list -- perhaps as early as Wednesday -- some changes are coming to the bullpen, though Porter wouldn't address it postgame Tuesday.

"We've got some guys with some good arms in there," Fields said. "It's a matter of time, and we'll turn it around. It's a little frustrating. Just overall, we know that a lot of these guys can get it done here, and I think we'll be fine. We can turn it around and get a couple of good outings under our belts and build some confidence back up. It's a little tough. We're struggling, but we'll be all right."

Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera went 4-for-5 with a homer and four RBIs to pace Detroit's 18-hit attack, which were the most allowed by the Astros this year. The only time the Astros retired Cabrera, he hit a line drive that was snagged by a diving Jose Altuve behind second base.

Tigers starter Robbie Ray picked up a win in his Major League debut by holding the Astros to five hits and one run while striking out five batters in 5 1/3 innings.

"You can go out there and throw strikes knowing the team's going to be behind me and they're going to hit for you, too," Ray said. "You can pitch more aggressively. It's great to have that run support."

The Astros had Ray on the ropes in the first inning when Altuve led off with a bloop double and went to third on Dexter Fowler's infield hit. But Ray recovered to strike out Jason Castro and Chris Carter before getting Jesus Guzman to ground out to end the inning.

"I felt like that was a big inning, especially with a guy making his Major League debut," Porter said. "You get him on the ropes -- first and third with the middle of your lineup coming up -- you feel like if you push a couple of runs across there, it's a different ballgame. To his credit, he made quality pitches and was able to get out of hit unscathed and went on to have a good performance."

Astros rookie right fielder George Springer had a career-high three hits, including an RBI double in the ninth, to extend his hitting streak to six games. He's hitting .320 in that span to raise hit batting average to .222.

"I'm starting to slow everything down more and understanding who I am and going out and playing from there," Springer said. "The most important thing is getting a good pitch to hit and hit it."

Oberholtzer (0-6) lost for the sixth time in seven starts this year, giving up nine hits and four runs in six innings -- his second-longest start of the season. He hasn't won in a span of 10 starts dating back to Sept. 7, 2013.

"He did a good job battling against a really good lineup and having us in position to at least mount a comeback when he left the ballgame," Porter said. Comments