DETROIT -- The game started late, but Jeanmar Gomez and Rick Porcello seemed intent on finishing it on time.
The two starters fought round after round. Gomez relied on efficiency, Porcello on ground balls and strikeouts, to work a scoreless tie into extra innings after the game started 1 hour, 13 minutes late due to a rain delay.
"I don't know if it was the humidity or whatever the case was for the pitchers, but both guys were moving the ball really well," Neil Walker said.
Only when Walker blasted a home run, against the Detroit Tigers bullpen, did the stalemate end. The homer gave the Pirates a 1-0 win Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
Walker hit the first pitch he saw from Tigers reliever Jose Ortega, a slider on the inner half of the plate, out to right field for his third home run of the season.
"The guy obviously throws hard and I wanted to get ready early," Walker said.
Nobody reached second base for the first seven innings. Gomez and Porcello needed 158 pitches through 14 combined innings of work.
"When you got a guy working quick, keeping the defense into it and throwing a lot of strikes, it makes the game fun," Walker said.
Gomez tied his career high with seven scoreless innings. He had pitched seven innings three times before in his career. The first time he did so, against the Tigers July 18, 2010, was his major league debut.
Gomez allowed three hits and a walk and struck out two. Back-to-back, seven-pitch innings in the fifth and sixth kept his pitch count low. He finished with 73 pitches.
"He gave us seven outstanding innings," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He pitched effectively."
Porcello matched Gomez inning for inning. He pitched eight scoreless innings and struck out a career-high 11. He allowed three hits and a walk.
"I'm trying to throw up zeros every time, no matter what the score is," Porcello said. "[Tuesday night] was a good ballgame, it was really a tough game on both sides and we just ended up coming up a little bit short."
Jason Grilli earned his 21st save, and he did have to earn it. He protected a one-run lead in the 11th by striking out Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
"You've got to attack them the same way as any other guys," Grilli said.
The Pirates put the first runner on second base in the eighth. Pedro Alvarez singled and Travis Snider walked with one out. Josh Harrison pinch-ran for Alvarez, but Clint Barmes grounded into a double play to end the inning.
The Tigers had a chance in the eighth. A Barmes throwing error allowed Omar Infante to reach second against Justin Wilson, but Wilson retired the next two batters.
Walker singled in the ninth off Joaquin Benoit. He stole second with two outs, and an errant throw put him on third, but Garrett Jones flied out.
Pinch-hitter Jordy Mercer came to the plate with two on and two outs in the 10th, but flied out.
Gomez has had trouble extending his starts past the fifth this season. He pitched well against the New York Mets May 12 at Citi Field, but after taking a ball off his leg, his calf tightened and forced him from the game. He made it through 4 2/3 innings May 17 against the Houston Astros. He pitched well against the Chicago Cubs May 23, but a lengthy rain delay kept him from pitching more than 3 2/3 innings.
"We are committed to challenging him to get out there and give us five," said Hurdle, who said five innings was a realistic expectation, before the game. "He understands the importance of the role he's in and what he's doing. Anything less than that obviously puts a little more strain on our guys in the bullpen."
To counter Porcello and the three left-handers in the Tigers bullpen, Hurdle staggered his lineup so that at no point did two same-handed batters hit consecutively.
In two career starts against the Pirates, Porcello had allowed one run in 15 innings. Porcello makes his living with control and using his defense, taking advantage of a good sinking fastball. He had walked only 1.9 batters per nine innings this season entering this start, but struck out only 6.1 per nine. He had allowed 52 hits in 43 innings before Tuesday, and in 2012 led the American League with 226 hits allowed in 176 1/3 innings.
"You saw Porcello very, very good," Hurdle said. "We've seen him like this in the past. He had everything working."
Bill Brink: firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @BrinkPG. First Published May 29, 2013 4:00 AM