The Pirates tore through Justin Verlander for five runs Monday night, then finished off the Detroit Tigers, 11-6, at PNC Park.
Verlander left the game with right shoulder soreness after throwing 40 first-inning pitches as the Pirates batted around the order and scored five runs.
They plated three more off reliever Justin Miller in the second on a sacrifice fly and two-run home run by Travis Snider, then went back-to-back with two sixth-inning home runs off Kevin Whelan. Snider added a second home run in the eighth as the Pirates improved to 63-55.
It was that first-inning barrage that set the tone.
“It was a welcome sight,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “We like to play. You’re going to face one of the elite pitchers in the game, we’re one run down. Our game plan is to go up there and see pitches, be aggressive within the strike zone, try and make him work. And we were able to get those things accomplished.”
The high-scoring win was an improbable start to a crucial stretch for the Pirates, scheduled to play 22 consecutive games against teams contending for the postseason.
It has been a troublesome month which has seen Andrew McCutchen land on the disabled list and Neil Walker absent from the lineup with lower back tightness — placing a burden of run production.
“This is a challenging time, there’s no doubt about that,” Hurdle said before the game. “But I don’t think we need to make any more of it than what we’ve got in our hands and that’s what this team has done so well, is focus on today and [doing] everything we can to score one more run than the other team.”
Instead, Starling Marte clubbed a bases-clearing triple off Verlander, Snider hit two home runs and Russell Martin and Ike Davis chipped in with back-to-back home runs in the sixth.
“It shows that they don’t need me. I mean, that’s the truth,” McCutchen said. “It’s not like I’m out, season’s over. The season is not over; we’ve got guys who can step up and do their job, get the job done. … It shows that don’t take us lightly just because we’ve got a couple guys down. We can still get the job done, still win ballgames and we showed that.”
Jeff Locke gave up two first-inning hits and a walk as the Tigers went ahead, 1-0, on an RBI single by Miguel Cabrera.
But the Pirates bailed out Locke quickly as they scored five runs on four hits, two walks and two Tigers errors.
After the bases-loaded triple from Marte, they got an RBI from Snider, who reached on an error, and an RBI single from Jayson Nix to go ahead, 5-1.
The Tigers played a 19-inning game Sunday and used eight different pitchers. Entering Monday, Hurdle didn’t expect fatigue to be a factor for Detroit.
“They’ve got a guy named Verlander on the mound, which kind of makes it a different situation,” Hurdle said.
It turned out to be the shortest outing of Verlander’s career.
Verlander did not return after the first and was replaced by Miller, who was promoted Monday from Detroit’s Class AAA affiliate in Toledo.
The Tigers threatened in the second, putting two in scoring position before Rajai Davis lined out to left field.
Snider made the catch, then threw out Alex Avila at home after he tagged up.
“It very well could have been one of those things you talk about a momentum changer,” Hurdle said.
The Pirates went ahead, 8-1, after a three-run second before the Tigers plated three runs in the sixth, chasing Locke from the game with the bases loaded.
Jared Hughes entered to minimize the damage and the Tigers scored just one on a groundout, sandwiched between two strikeouts.
Locke (4-3) left the mound with no outs. He gave up four earned runs and eight hits with four walks and one strikeout.
“Just missing spots,” he said. “Good hitting team, aggressive. We all knew that coming in. [Was] just missing spots with command. Inconsistent, all the things we continue to work on during the week so on that fifth day everything can be as sharp as possible.”
Rajai Davis drove in two runs in the eighth for the Tigers off reliever Casey Sadler before Tony Watson entered with a runner on and two outs.
Davis was thrown out at home by Gregory Polanco to end the inning on a single by Cabrera to right.
Jenn Menendez: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @JennMenendez First Published August 11, 2014 12:00 AM