Drew Smyly never saw 2013 evolving in quite this fashion. This new job of his, anyway, which at the outset he had every reason to like as much as your 4-year-old appreciates a bowl of spinach.

The bullpen was no place for a starting pitcher. Not for the long-term.

And it probably won't be an assignment that lasts forever.

But for now, he is prospering, and so is his team, which Friday got a boost from Smyly's shutdown relief, as well as from Alex Avila's two-run, ninth-inning home run, which gave the Tigers a pulse-pumping 4-3 victory over the Astros at Minute Maid Park.

"I thought I'd be fine, I knew it wasn't some crazy experiment," said Smyly, whose record rose to 2-0, and whose ERA dropped to 1.35 with Friday's victory.

"I didn't want to be buried in the bullpen, or at Triple A. I just wanted to help out. And that's what I enjoy: helping out the team and winning some games."

Smyly's assignment Friday was about as pleasing as a visit with the auditor. He arrived in the seventh inning, after the Astros had initiated a jail break against starting pitcher Doug Fister, who until the seventh was working on a 2-0 shutout.

But four hits sandwiched around an error had put the Astros on top, 3-2, as Smyly arrived with two on. He got the next three batters — flyout, groundout, strikeout — to squelch the rally and keep the Tigers within range of Avila's two-run, winning homer.

"The adrenalin you get coming out, putting the team on your back, it's pretty exciting," said Smyly, a 23-year-old left-hander who is expected, in time, to return to manager Jim Leyland's rotation. "I never really had that before. It just means you better do your job."

He did just that Friday, saving Fister from a defeat, and with his two scoreless, hitless, innings, arranging for Jose Valverde's third save of the season.