DETROIT -

Defending AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer outdueled 23-year-old Jarred Cosart Monday to give the Detroit Tigers (18-9) a victory over the Houston Astros (10-22) in the first of a four-game series.

View: Boxscore

Scherzer was nearly untouchable in eight scoreless innings, surrendering just three hits and striking out nine. Cosart put up a fight against the Tigers’ star, but fell victim to some bad luck after an error on first baseman Marc Krauss allowed Nick Castellanos to reach base and eventually score on a Rajai Davis single to left field.

The unearned run was the only offense in the game until the bottom of the eighth, when Victor Martinez hit his team-leading fifth home run of the season to deep right center field.

Both teams combined for just nine hits, but Torii Hunter stayed hot by extending his hitting streak to 12 games with two singles.

Catcher Alex Avila quietly had a productive night, drawing two walks and throwing out three base runners from behind the dish. Avila increased his on-base percentage to .352, which is higher than that of Miguel Cabrera and Ian Kinsler. The young catcher is looking more comfortable at the plate after struggling through the month of April.

Closer Joe Nathan relieved Scherzer in the ninth inning and slammed the door on the Astros for the save. Castellanos recorded the final out of the game by reaching over the railing of the dugout and catching Chris Carter's popup.

Detroit extended its winning streak to six games and handed Houston its fifth loss in six games. The Tigers maintained their 4.5-game lead in the AL Central Division after the Minnesota Twins beat the Cleveland Indians 1-0.

The seven-game home stand continues on Tuesday night as Robbie Ray makes his season debut against Houston.