The Detroit Tigers' Anibal Sanchez owns one of the AL's best ERA's but has had trouble getting consistent run support.
Judging by his career numbers against the lowly Houston Astros, the right-hander might not need too much help in Monday night's series opener in Detroit.
Sanchez (3-3, 1.97 ERA) has allowed three runs or fewer in each of his seven starts but has received a combined three runs from the Tigers (20-15) in his three defeats. He's taken two of those losses in his two outings this month, the latest a 3-1 setback at Washington on Wednesday.
Sanchez pitched at least six innings for the sixth straight time and fanned eight, keeping him among the AL leaders with 58 strikeouts in 45 2-3 innings.
If he can get some better support, Sanchez would appear to have a good chance to avoid a third straight loss. He's 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in seven career starts against the Astros and had a 1.38 ERA in two matchups last season while with Miami.
Houston (10-28) heads into this game with the worst record in the majors and with 11 losses in its last 12 road games. The Astros are 3-14 overall since April 24 and were outscored 37-8 during a four-game sweep by Detroit from May 2-5 in Houston.
The Tigers could use another such set of performances after dropping four of five. Jose Valverde gave up a one-run lead in the ninth inning Sunday against Cleveland - his first blown save since returning to Detroit - and Darin Downs yielded another run in the extra frame in a 4-3 loss.
That defeat gave Detroit back-to-back losses at Comerica Park, where it had won six of seven.
"It's going to happen, because we are human," catcher Brayan Pena said. "Valverde's our closer, and we're very happy to have him, and he's one of those guys that tomorrow is going to be back on the mound and see what happens."
The Astros' most effective starter, Bud Norris (4-3, 3.40), will try to help add to that skid while winning in back-to-back outings for the first time in 2013. He gave up one run and scattered nine hits over eight innings in Wednesday's 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Angels.
"I really hope that the rest of the starters take heed of what can happen when you attack the strike zone," manager Bo Porter said. "We have a pretty good defense, and when you make the other team feel like they have to swing early in the count (and) put the ball in play (and) allow our defense to play, we get starts like we got tonight from Bud Norris."
The right-hander allowed two runs over seven innings in his only start against Detroit on May 3, but the Astros bullpen blew a one-run lead in the ninth in a 4-3 loss.
Miguel Cabrera had the only extra-base hit off Norris in that game, a double, and his hit streak has now grown to 11 games. Cabrera, who is batting .404 with 14 RBIs during his current run, was 8 for 17 (.471) with two homers and seven RBIs in the four games in Houston.
Cabrera wasn't with the Tigers during the most recent visit from Houston, a three-game Detroit sweep June 26-28, 2006.