HOUSTON, Texas -

Following a sluggish start, the Detroit Tigers are beginning to pile up the wins. They aim for another when they take on the hapless Houston Astros on Saturday in the third of four straight at Minute Maid Park. A two-run homer by Alex Avila in the ninth inning Friday lifted the Tigers to a 4-3 victory, their seventh in eight games after opening 10-10. The surge has the defending American League champions back atop the Central Division.

Detroit has given up an average of 2.4 runs in the seven wins during its recent run. Max Scherzer will be looking to keep alive that trend against the punchless Astros, who needed an error and a fortunate bounce on an infield hit to pick up two of their three runs Friday. Houston has dropped eight of its last nine, scoring four runs or fewer in each of the eight setbacks. It is 0-2 on a season-long 10-game homestand.

PITCHING MATCHUP: Tigers RH Max Scherzer (3-0, 4.02 ERA) vs. Astros RH Lucas Harrell (3-2, 3.60)

Including the 2012 playoffs, Scherzer has won 10 of his last 11 decisions and 19 of the last 23 after another solid performance against Minnesota on Monday, when he surrendered three runs in 7 1/3 innings while striking out 10. The flamethrower has fanned at least 10 in three of his five starts after doing so a total of four times all last year. Scherzer is 3-0 with a 1.40 ERA over his last seven road starts dating to last season. He is 1-1 with a 5.28 ERA against Houston and gave up four runs in five innings in his only start at Minute Maid Park.

While the two teams are mismatched as a whole, Harrell has shown an ability to rise above such issues while pitching at home. He has allowed two runs or fewer in three of his four starts this year at Minute Maid Park and owns a 2.87 ERA in 20 games (19 starts) in Houston over the course of his career. The 27-year-old is also coming off a fantastic road start as he yielded one run in 6 1/3 innings in a win at Yankee Stadium. Excluding one rough outing against Oakland on April 7, Harrell is 3-1 with a 1.76 ERA in five starts.

WALK-OFFS

1. Tigers CF Austin Jackson sat Friday with sore hamstrings. Manager Jim Leyland said Jackson could have played.

2. Detroit 1B Prince Fielder, 2B Omar Infante and C Brayan Pena are each 2-for-2 against Harrell.

3. Houston is 0-15 when its opponent scores first.

PREDICTION: Tigers 4, Astros 2

Team Comparison

 W/LStrkHomeAwayEastCentralWestIL
Detroit17-11W210-47-74-24-46-53-0
Houston8-22L44-104-121-61-46-120-0

Last Meeting

DetroitHouston
DateAwayHomeAvgHROPSAvgHROPS
5/3/13DET 4HOU 3.1881.610.2500.585

Player Stats

Season Series

BattingPlayerAvgHitsOPS
DetroitA. Jackson.42931.000
HoustonR. Grossman.37531.045

OffensePlayerHRRunsRBI
DetroitA. Avila112
HoustonJ. Castro112

PitchingERAAvgK
Detroit1.96.24424
Houston3.91.18126

Season

BattingPlayerAvgHitsOPS
DetroitM. Cabrera.368421.008
HoustonJ. Altuve.33342.805

OffensePlayerHRRunsRBI
DetroitP. Fielder71727
HoustonC. Carter61614

PitchingERAAvgK
Detroit3.52.276287
Houston5.29.252191