Tigers claw back to steal victory
By Rob Biertempfel
Published: Sunday, May 20, 2012, 4:04 p.m.
Updated: Friday, August 24, 2012
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 firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-320-7811.
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Just a brief reminder that after Saturday's game, the Pirates were 19-21. In 8 of the previous 10 seasons, the Pirates were either 18-22 or 19-21 at the 40 game mark. As long as there are no significant changes to the offense, I see no reason to expect anything other than what we've seen, a 90+ loss team.
Submitted by: Joe on Sunday, May 20, 2012
It's to the point that these guys make every opposing pitcher look like Walter Johnson. I would be embarrassed, not so arrogant, that I would get cluelessness at the plate confused with aggressiveness. Maybe, if Pirate fans are very lucky, this preponderance of strikeouts to walks will be just an unwanted growing pain. If it isn't; SOS. You may use these letters in your favorite context. Let's Go Bucs!!!!!
Submitted by: Tony on Sunday, May 20, 2012
Although the Pirates are "only" 3 games under .500 through 41 games, the Pirates have the feel of a team that will likely finish far below .500 by season's end. No doubt the Pirates are offensively challenged, but the biggest hole in the lineup resides at the clean up spot. Since Pedro Alvarez was rewarded for his mini spurt with a promotion to the #4 spot, he has proceeded to bat .120 with 26 Ks in 50 ABs. He has reverted to looking lost at the plate. Now, this should come as no surprise to the fans or management. Pedro's stats are a continuation of last year's performance at the MLB level, his performance at Indy after his demotion and then his spring training performance. Potential is one thing, but why management was so hell bent on force feeding Alvarez into the lineup is beyond comprehension and certainly not the approach of a team with winning as a priority. The baseball IQ of this management team is very suspect.