Baseball is a game of inches.

Miguel Cabrera just missed hitting a game-winning grand slam. Phil Coke missed his spot on a fastball that Carlos Corporan hit for a tiebreaking double.

But the guy who missed his spots by the most number of inches the most times was Al Alburquerque.

Coke seemed like the easy guy to blame Wednesday afternoon for the 7-5 loss the Detroit Tigers suffered to the Houston Astros, who won for just the 11th time this season. Clearly, Coke needs to pitch better. But the reason that Coke was in the game at all was simple: Alburquerque couldn't throw strikes.

Alburquerque struck out Chris Carter to get the Tigers out of a jam in the eighth inning. But Carter is about as discerning at the plate as a starving man at an all-you-can eat buffet. Carter has 60 strikeouts through 41 games, which puts him on pace for 237 strikeouts this season.

With runners at second and third, Carter flailed and missed at a 3-2 slider that catcher Brayan Pena had to block in the dirt.

"He was too wild today," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Alburquerque. "Just too wild. He was bouncing balls to the guy he struck out. If the guy takes that pitch, we might have been in trouble there."

Alburquerque came back out to start the ninth with the score tied 5-5 and quickly walked J.D. Martinez. The next five batters for the Astros consisted of two switch hitters, a right-handed hitter and two more switch hitters. It was clear Leyland had no shot at getting a good matchup. He went with Coke.

Leyland said he wasn't overly comfortable with the situation, but that there were two main reasons he went with Coke: He knew Coke would throw strikes and he thought a left-handed pitcher would do a better job of holding pinch-runner Brandon Barnes on first base.

"I didn’t feel real comfortable doing it, because of the switch-hitters," Leyland said. "However, you can’t let (Alburquerque) walk 'em. That’s depressing. If I’d have felt like he was going to throw the ball over the plate, or if he’d shown any signs that he was going to throw it over the plate, I’d have obviously left him in.

"When you’re having trouble, and bouncing the ball, that’s not real comfortable."