This time around, the Pirates ensured Justin Verlander would have no shot at a no-hitter. That didn't stop him from putting forth another dominant performance.
The first Pirates player to the plate, Alex Presley, bunted for a single against the Detroit Tigers' right-hander. From there, Verlander proceeded to limit the Pirates, overcoming a rough patch in the late innings to give the Tigers a 3-2 win Sunday at PNC Park.
The Tigers avoided a sweep and ended the Pirates' three-game winning streak.
Verlander pitched a complete game, the second one in as many starts against the Pirates this season. He took a no-hitter into the ninth against the Pirates May 18 until Josh Harrison singled.
"The last two innings, he looked like a brand new, fresh pitcher coming in there, flipped the switch, turned that extra gear on and was able to finish the game," said Garrett Jones, whose home run in the seventh tied the score.
The Tigers broke the tie in the eighth. Chris Resop walked Quintin Berry with one out in the inning and Berry stole second. With first base open, Resop intentionally walked Prince Fielder to get to Delmon Young.
Young singled to right field, scoring Berry and giving the Tigers a 3-2 lead.
Verlander (8-4) allowed two runs on five hits, walking one and striking out seven.
"That's a tough draw for anybody," manager Clint Hurdle said. "I thought we battled."
The Pirates battled from behind for most of the game. The first batter of the game, Austin Jackson, singled on the first pitch from Kevin Correia and Berry hit his first career home run, a two-run shot to right field.
Correia fell behind Berry, 2-0, and said he was trying to throw a fastball for a strike on the home run pitch.
"It's tough to spot a guy like Verlander two runs, so I knew after that, that's all I could give up if I was going to keep us in the game," Correia said.
After the first, Correia improved and gave the Pirates six innings in a game that the Pirates needed length from their starter. He allowed two runs on six hits, walking one and striking out four. The Tigers attacked his pitches early, which kept his pitch count at 86 over six innings and helped him get outs. He was due up first in the sixth, however, and the Pirates needed offense.
"We're kind of down in the bullpen a little bit," Correia said. "We've had [Joel] Hanrahan and [Jason] Grilli throw a couple days in a row. I knew I couldn't go out there and throw two innings. You're kind of not really expecting to be down, 2-0, after the first two hitters, but after that I knew they were going to be aggressive and I just made that adjustment."
Pedro Alvarez singled in the seventh before Jones lined his ninth home run of the season into the seats in right-center field, tying the score at 2-2. Verlander left a changeup over the plate and knew it, throwing his hand on top of his hat as he watched the ball leave the field. Verlander had only allowed six home runs all season before Sunday.
"He's a guy that has been a dominant pitcher for years and years," Jones said. "He's not going to give up much more than two, three runs a start if he gives up any."
Home-plate umpire Marty Foster ejected Hurdle in the fourth after Hurdle came to Casey McGehee's defense. McGehee struck out on a check swing and argued that Foster should have let first-base umpire Tim Timmons rule on whether or not he went around.
"I've caught enough to be able to know that, even catching, I couldn't tell sometimes if guys went or not," McGehee said. "It's frustrating, especially when you got a guy like Verlander on the mound."
Hurdle called his discussion with Foster a disagreement over semantics.
The Pirates begin a seven-game road trip today against the Philadelphia Phillies.
"That's a good team over there," Hurdle said of the Tigers. "I don't believe they've found their rhythm yet. I believe they will.
"Our next challenge will be to get to Philly in one piece and take on another good team that is trying to find their way as well."
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published June 25, 2012 4:00 AM