Pirates jump on Verlander early, win slugfest
Two summers ago, Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander nearly no-hit the Pirates. Josh Harrison broke it up with a slap single in the ninth inning.
Harrison didn't wait that long Monday night, hitting a single on Verlander's sixth pitch of the game.
The Pirates didn't stop there. They jumped on Verlander for five runs in the first inning and routed the Tigers, 11-6.
“It was a welcome sight,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We were facing an elite pitcher, one run down, our game plan was to see pitches, be aggressive in the strike zone and try to make him work. We were able to get those things accomplished.”
Verlander lasted just one inning, the shortest outing of his nine-year career.
Playing without Andrew McCutchen, who was placed on the 15-day disabled list before the game, the Pirates banged out 14 hits.
“It shows they don't need me,” McCutchen said with a chuckle. “It's the truth. It's not like I'm out, so the season's over. The season is not over. We've got guys who can step up and get the job done.”
Travis Snider hit a pair of home runs: a two-run homer in the second inning and a solo shot in the eighth. He wound up a triple shy of the cycle.
Russell Martin and Ike Davis each smacked a solo homer. Starling Marte lined a three-run triple.
“Cutch is missed, first and foremost,” Snider said. “But we understand that, to help this team win, we've all got to fulfill our roles, whether you're a starter or a bench guy.”
The Pirates moved into second place in the NL Central, 2 1⁄2 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers. The Tigers dropped into second in the AL Central, a half-game behind the surging Kansas City Royals.
It's the fourth time this season the Pirates scored at least eight runs in a game against an American League team.
Left-hander Jeff Locke (4-3) weathered some turbulence to win his second straight decision. He went five-plus innings and allowed four runs on eight hits.
“Inconsistent command,” Locke said. “Missing some spots.”
Locke gave up a run and two hits in the first inning. In the second, he walked the first two batters on nine pitches. With runners on second and third with one out, Rajai Davis flied out to left field. Snider's perfect throw got Alex Avila at the plate for a double play.
“A momentum-changer,” Hurdle said.
In the sixth, Locke faced five batters without getting an out. Jared Hughes took over with the bases loaded and kept the game in check.
“The big word for me is just focus, focus, focus,” Hughes said. “If I can just focus and not overthrow it, hopefully, I can get ahead in the count.”
Throwing a heavy dose of offspeed pitches, Verlander (10-11) lurched through a 40-pitch inning. He then left the game because of right shoulder soreness. After the game, Verlander said he expected to get an MRI exam.
“This was the toughest game I've ever had to watch,” Verlander said. “Warming up, it didn't feel great. There were no sharp pains or anything, but the ball wasn't coming out of my hand good at all. I was throwing 88, 90 mph.”
Verlander lost for the first time in his past 15 decisions against National League clubs. In 33 interleague starts, his record is 25-3.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at email@example.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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