Tigers claw back to steal victory

Rob Biertempfel
| Sunday, May 20, 2012, 4:04 p.m.

DETROIT — Delmon Young took his lead off second base and stared at Rod Barajas.

Barajas noticed it right away, so the Pirates catcher went to the mound and changed the signs with reliever Tony Watson. The last thing they needed was the Detroit Tigers stealing their pitch calls.

Barajas squatted behind the plate and called for a fastball away. In his mind, however, he thought he'd asked for a slider.

Crossed up, Barajas had the pitch tick off his glove and roll away for a passed ball. It was a crucial gaffe that allowed the Tigers to rally past the Pirates, 4-3, on Sunday.

“I screwed it up, and I feel terrible,” Barajas said. “I went off the old signs. Tony threw the pitch I called. I just screwed up. I can deal with going 0 for 3 (at the plate) or making a physical mistake. But something like that, there's no excuse.”

Pirates starter Kevin Correia (1-5) took a 2-1 lead into the seventh inning.

The right-hander had breezed through the first six innings, allowing just two hits.

Prince Fielder blooped a double into shallow left field. Fielder was able to ease into second base when shortstop Clint Barmes kicked the ball into foul territory.

“An unlucky play,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “It's not like someone played poor defense.”

Young grounded an RBI single up the middle to tie the game. Watson replaced Correia and walked Jhonny Peralta.

The passed ball put runners on second and third, forcing the Pirates to play the infield in. Alex Avila hit a chopper that got past Watson and Barmes, who made a diving attempt. Two runs scored on the single.

“Stuff happens,” Watson said with a shrug. “A seeing-eye single. It's a tough one to swallow.”

It was the first time this season the Pirates lost a game they led after six innings.

The Pirates struck out 17 times, tying their single-game franchise record.

The Pirates whiffed 12 times in each of the first two games of the series.

Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer (3-3) racked up 15 strikeouts — all of them swinging — the most this season by a major leaguer.

It is the second-highest total ever by a starter against the Pirates. Four pitchers have amassed 16 Ks against them, most recently Randy Johnson on Aug. 23, 2001. It's also the most strikeouts by a Tigers pitcher since Mickey Lolich fanned 15 against the Boston Red Sox on Oct. 2, 1972.

“When you start throwing around names in Tigers history like Mickey Lolich ... that's good stuff,” said Hurdle, who grew up a Tigers fan.

Neil Walker seemed overmatched in his first two at-bats against Scherzer, going down swinging twice on pitches out of the zone. In the sixth, he hit a loud foul ball, worked the count full, then whipped a 407-foot solo shot over the short porch in right field.

It was Walker's 26th career home run, tying him with Carlos Garcia for seventh most by a Pirates second baseman.

Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or 412-320-7811.

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