HOUSTON (AP) - The Houston Astros were eight outs away from being no-hit for a second time this season, until Carlos Pena laced a hard single to right field to spoil Justin Verlander's bid for his third no-hitter.
Verlander shut down the overmatched Astros in their sixth straight loss, 9-0 on Sunday. Texas' Yu Darvish was one out away from pitching a perfect game against the Astros in the first week of the season.
Pena got the Astros' first hit, a single with one out in the seventh over the head of second baseman Omar Infante, who was playing in shallow right with the shift on, and in front of outfielder Don Kelly. Carlos Corporan followed with a single and the Astros got two more hits in the last two innings against reliever Darin Downs .
``We just kept on coming, trying to put up some good at_bats and stick with the process,' Pena said. ``We knew we did not have a hit, so then you have to go up there trying to get a hit, and that really works into (Verlander's) favor.
``He used that against us. But we just tried to stay within ourselves and try to put a few good at_bats together. Finally, we were able to get a hit there at the end.'
Verlander (4-2) struck out nine and left after the seventh. The former AL MVP and Cy Young winner has a 1.55 ERA this season.
Houston, which has the worst record in the majors, has lost 10 of its last 11. Philip Humber (0-7) gave up eight runs in four innings. Humber has lost all seven of his starts this season, and he has only made it past the fifth inning in one of his last four outings.
``I don't know what's wrong,' Humber said. ``It just seems like every mistake I made, they hit hard, and I just did not make enough good pitches.'
Houston already moved Erik Bedard out of the starting rotation, and Humber said he has not pitched well enough to keep management from making another change. He said he's not worried.
``That is something that is out of my control, but I have not done anything to keep that from happening,' Humber said. ``I just need to control what I can and work as hard as I can every day. But right now, it is just not happening for me.'
Astros manager Bo Porter complimented the Tigers' lineup, but said Humber was not attacking the strike zone like he was earlier in the season, when he was pitching better.
``(Before) he was getting ahead early,' said Porter. ``In his last four starts . just a lot of deep counts. There is a lack of attack of the strike zone, which gets him behind in the count. If you get behind against that lineup, let them get into a hitter's count and put something in the zone, they are going to attack and put a good swing on it.'
Porter said he has not yet decided if Humber will remain in the rotation.
``We'll take the off day and think about it,' Porter added. ``I am not going to make a knee-jerk decision, sitting here after the game. We'll think about our options and go from there.'
Verlander came close to joining rare company. Only five pitchers in major league history have thrown three no-hitters: Nolan Ryan leads with seven, Sandy Koufax threw four and Bob Feller, Cy Young and 1880s pitcher Larry Corcoran each had three.
Prince Fielder homered and drove in four runs. Andy Dirks had four hits, including a home run. Brayan Pena and Omar Infante also homered.
Detroit has won nine of the last 10 and swept a four-game road series for the first time since taking four at Kansas City on May 22-25, 2006.
The Astros managed just a pair of runners through six innings, with Jason Castro drawing a walk in the first and Pena walking in the fourth.
The no-hitter remained intact to start the sixth as Marwin Gonzalez, who broke up Darvish's perfect game, reached on an error by Fielder at first base. Gonzalez was erased when Robbie Grossman lined out to Fielder, who doubled off Gonzalez.
Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera kept the Astros hitless to begin the fifth, making a diving stop to his left on Brandon Laird's grounder, then rolling over and throwing to first from his back for the out.
The best opportunity for a Houston hit before that came in the fourth when Fernando Martinez hit a drive to the warning track in left that Dirks caught in the corner.
A day after routing Houston 17-2, Detroit scored twice in the first inning and five more in the second. Fielder hit his eighth homer in the first. Pena homered in the second, Dirks hit an RBI single and Fielder added a two-run single.
NOTES: Houston LHP Erik Bedard has been moved from the rotation to the bullpen. He threw 3 1-3 innings in relief Sunday, giving up one run and two hits with three strikeouts. Houston will decide on Bedard's spot in the rotation, which would come up again Friday, midweek, Porter said. ... Houston players wore ``Los Astros' jerseys Sunday in recognition of Cinco de Mayo.
The Associated Press News Service
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