The Pirates know the value of quality starting pitchers, which is part of the reason they chose to send Brad Lincoln to the mound Saturday afternoon.
Lincoln displayed that, when at his best, he can provide the value the Pirates hoped for.
Following three consecutive poor starts, Lincoln pitched effectively and efficiently. He threw strikes and got swings and misses in a winning effort that gave the Pirates their third win in a row and sixth in their past seven games.
Andrew McCutchen's three-run homer backed Lincoln's outing and gave the Pirates a 4-1 win against the Detroit Tigers in front of a sellout crowd of 38,734 at PNC Park.
Lincoln's only blip the first time through the Tiger's order was a walk to Alex Avila. He struck out four batters through the first three innings, including two in the second.
He struck out a batter each in the third, fourth and fifth. He finished with seven strikeouts, surpassing his previous career high of six.
Lincoln did not allow a hit until the sixth inning, when Ramon Santiago led off with a single.
Between a first-pitch ball to Prince Fielder in the fourth and an 0-2 ball to Miguel Cabrera in the seventh, Lincoln threw 21 consecutive strikes.
Unfortunately for Lincoln, Cabrera ended that at-bat by lining a 3-2 fastball into the right-center field seats for his 15th home run of the season. The home run cut the score to 3-1, and manager Clint Hurdle lifted Lincoln for Juan Cruz.
The outing marked a sharp departure from Lincoln's past three starts, when he failed to get out of the fifth and allowed at least four runs in each of them. His curveball worked, and he kept hitters from driving his fastball.
Tigers starter Max Scherzer matched Lincoln through the first three innings. He allowed a single in the first to Jose Tabata, but Tabata was caught stealing for the eighth time this season, tying him with the Chicago Cubs' Starlin Castro for most in the National League.
Scherzer cracked first. Alex Presley hit a line drive to right-center in the fourth field that Austin Jackson to run it down in the gap. Presley went for second, but Jackson's throw was off line, and Presley had a double.
Tabata squared to bunt, but took a pitch off his right wrist, putting two men on for McCutchen. McCutchen hit his 13th homer of the year, a high shot to left field, and the Pirates led, 3-0.
Casey McGehee hit a pinch-hit double in the seventh and scored on Neil Walker's single, giving the Pirates a 4-1 lead.
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG.