LAKELAND, Fla. -- Maybe Justin Verlander will shut down the Astros when the Tigers go to Houston in May. On Thursday, though, they put on a home-run display under the lights at Joker Marchant Stadium, homering three times in Verlander's 5 2/3 innings for a 7-2 Astros win.
Carlos Corporan homered twice, once off Verlander. His drive to right leading off the fifth inning was the first of back-to-back homers against Verlander, who said after the outing that he left a couple of fastballs up while struggling to get a feel for his slider.
Those back-to-back blasts came an inning after Brandon Laird had put Houston ahead for good with a two-run homer. Laird, who replaced Brett Wallace after Wallace left the game with a pinched nerve in his left trap in the first inning, is the younger brother of former Tigers catcher Gerald Laird.
Verlander had a text message waiting from Laird by the time he left the game with two outs in the sixth.
"As soon as he hit that ball, I thought, 'I'm never going to hear the end of this,'" Verlander said.
He might see more of Laird soon enough. The homer was the fifth Laird hit this spring as he tries to claim a spot on an Opening Day roster for the first time in his career.
Corporan hit his second home run off Al Alburquerque, lofting a ball high into the night sky.
Verlander doesn't know many of the Astros hitters he faced aside from the veterans in the middle of the order. Given the possibility of a regular-season matchup in a month and a half, he said he'll keep hitters' reactions in his memory bank.
"I'm just trying to get a feel for these guys," he said. "I'll take this start and log away a lot of information."
Corporan added a third hit with a ninth-inning single through the right side off Tigers closer candidate Bruce Rondon. J.D. Martinez added two hits.
Astros starter Lucas Harrell held a lineup of Tigers regulars to three hits over five innings of two-run ball. Alex Avila singled in Quintin Berry for a run in the fifth after Prince Fielder walked and scored on a double play in the second. Victor Martinez went 2-for-3.
Up next: Drew Smyly gets another chance to try to win the fifth starter's job on Friday with a rematch against the Nationals in a 1:05 p.m. ET game at Space Coast Stadium in Viera, Fla. Prince Fielder, Omar Infante and Jhonny Peralta are among those scheduled to make the trip. Luke Putkonen, Phil Coke, Brayan Villarreal and Jose Alvarez are also scheduled to pitch.