DETROIT -- By the time Miguel Cabrera's homer sailed deep into the seats in left field, the Detroit Tigers were already in control -- thanks to some unexpected contributions from the bottom of their batting order.
Don Kelly and Ramon Santiago drove in a run each during a two-out rally in the fifth inning, and the Tigers went on to beat the Houston Astros 6-2 on Tuesday night. Detroit scored three runs in the fifth and two in the sixth before Cabrera gave the Tigers their final run with a solo shot in the seventh.
Kelly entered the game with one RBI, and Santiago didn't have any.
"It's good for the team," Kelly said. "All you want to do is win, and any way you can help out is big."
Doug Fister (5-1) allowed two runs and five hits in seven innings. He struck out seven without a walk.
Lucas Harrell (3-4) allowed five runs and seven hits in five-plus innings. The Astros have lost six straight and 16 of 19.
Harrell was impressive for the first four innings but couldn't hold off the Tigers, even on a night when Santiago was filling in for shortstop Jhonny Peralta and Kelly was in centre field in place of injured Austin Jackson.
Kelly was hitting .200 entering the game, but his two-out RBI single in the fifth got the Tigers on the scoreboard. Santiago, who was hitting .154 coming in, drove in Kelly with a tying double.
"You don't want to be the last out. You want to keep going," Santiago said. "Those RBIs with two outs, they are big."
Andy Dirks put Detroit ahead 3-2 with a double to right-centre that bounced over the tallest section of the Comerica Park wall, scoring Santiago.
"We're trying some new things with our defence, and I thought they worked against me tonight," Harrell said. "The ball that Dirks hit was up there forever, and I thought someone might have caught that one. He hit it hard, and that's my fault, but I was hoping someone would get there."
The Tigers added two more runs in the sixth on an RBI single by Victor Martinez and a wild pitch by reliever Travis Blackley that allowed Prince Fielder to score.
There was no doubt about Cabrera's eighth homer of the year. J.D. Martinez, the left fielder, stared into the crowd for several seconds in apparent disbelief after the ball cleared the fence with plenty of room to spare.
Detroit has won all six matchups with the Astros this season, by a combined 50-12. This one was more competitive than Harrell's previous start against the Tigers, which Detroit won 17-2 earlier this month.
Houston was without standout second baseman Jose Altuve, who went on the bereavement list Tuesday following the death of his grandmother.
The Astros had turned a major league-high 52 double plays entering Tuesday's game, and they added two more to that total in the first four innings. Houston took the lead in the second when J.D. Martinez hit an RBI double and Jimmy Paredes added a sacrifice fly.
But Fister retired 12 in a row after a third-inning single by Jake Elmore. He gave up a double to J.D. Martinez in the seventh but struck out the next two hitters to finish his night on a high note.
"We have spurts where we have good at-bats, but there are other times where we miss the pitch we need to hit, or when we are taking the pitches we need to attack," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "The key to making it in this league is figuring out the pitchers and how they are trying to get you out. You need to be able to adjust to the way they are attacking you, and we aren't there yet."
NOTES: Houston is 10-30, the worst start by a major league team since Kansas City was also 10-30 en route to a 100-loss season in 2006, according to STATS. ... The Tigers go for a three-game sweep Wednesday. Detroit's Max Scherzer (5-0) takes the mound against Houston's Dallas Keuchel (0-1).