By LARRY LAGE/AP Sports Writer
DETROIT (AP) – Max Scherzer is pitching so well, he’s tough to beat.
The Detroit Tigers are pretty good, too, at the plate and in the field.
Scherzer pitched three-hit ball and struck out nine over eight innings, leading Detroit past the Houston Astros 2-0 Monday night for its season-high sixth straight victory.
The reigning Cy Young Award winner will get credit for the win, but acknowledged he had plenty of help.
Alex Avila threw out three runners. Austin Jackson sprinted toward the center field wall to catch a deep drive. Andrew Romine perfectly placed a bunt down the third base line to put Nick Castellanos in scoring position for Rajai Davis. Davis broke a scoreless tie with an RBI single in the seventh inning.
“Those are the little things that go on,” Scherzer said. “That’s why as a team, we’re successful.”
Victor Martinez hit a solo homer in the eighth inning and Joe Nathan pitched the ninth for his sixth save in eight chances for the AL-leading Tigers.
“You definitely enjoy the winning streaks,” Scherzer said. “You play 162 games, if you don’t enjoy these, you’re just going to beat yourself up.”
The Astros, who have the worst record in the majors, had a team meeting recently and manager Bo Porter told his players that they need to realize there is a lot of baseball left to play this season.
“I wanted to make sure that as a team, we don’t lose sight of that,” Porter said.
Scherzer (4-1) earned his fourth straight win. He has struck out at least seven in each of his seven starts this season, the only pitcher to pull off that feat in franchise history and the first for any team since San Francisco’s Tim Lincecum in 2010.
“He’s a Cy Young winner for a reason, but Jarred (Cosart) matched him pitch for pitch,” Porter said. “That was a great performance, but we couldn’t get him a win.”
Jarred Cosart (1-3) allowed an unearned run and four hits in seven innings. Nick Castellanos reached in the seventh because first baseman Marc Krauss dropped a perfect throw from third baseman Matt Dominguez.
“I just took my eye off the ball,” Krauss said. “That was a pretty bad time to do something like that because Cosart was pitching his guts out against one of the best teams in baseball, and I handed them another out in a key situation.
“I feel horrible because I cost him a great shot at a win,” he said.
Scherzer gave up a leadoff walk to Krauss in the eighth and Jonathan Villar singled with one out. Jose Altuve then struck out and Avila threw out pinch-runner Marwin Gonzalez trying to steal third.
“That was definitely a momentum-shifter,” Detroit manager Brad Ausmus said.
Nathan walked Dexter Fowler to lead off the inning. Fowler tried to advance on a pitch in the dirt and was thrown out by Avila, a call that stood after a video review.
“I was a little surprised that they went down two runs,” Avila said.
Houston’s Anthony Bass, who pitched at nearby Wayne State University, gave up Martinez’s homer.
Both starting pitchers slowed down lineups that have been more productive lately. The Tigers scored at least eight runs in each win during their three-game sweep at Kansas City last weekend. Houston had a combined 20 runs in its previous three games.
NOTES: The Tigers cleared the way for LHP Robbie Ray to make his major league debut. They took 1B Jordan Lennerton off their 40-man roster, outrighting his contract to Triple-A Toledo on Monday, and optioned RHP Jose Ortega to pitch for the Mud Hens. Ray is listed as the probable pitcher for Tuesday night’s game at home against LHP Brett Oberholtzer (0-5) the Astros. The 22-year-old Ray was a key part of the offseason trade that sent RHP Doug Fister to Washington. … Astros RHP Scott Feldman, who has been on the DL since mid-April with right biceps tendinitis, is expected to start Friday at Baltimore. … Porter said RHP Matt Albers, on the DL with shoulder tendinitis, is “getting closer,” to returning. … Many of the Tigers were sporting Zubaz pants – with orange and blue stripes – in the clubhouse before the game and had matching flip flops, ties and headbands in their lockers. Ausmus said they were team-bonding gifts from RHP Joba Chamberlain. “The sad part is I had Zubaz when I was younger,” the 45-year-old Ausmus said. “For the guys in the clubhouse, this is retro.” … Lions safety Glover Quin, Michigan guard Nik Stauskas and U.S. Speedskating Olympian Kelly Gunther each threw a ceremonial first pitch.