— Photo Credit: David Hague —
PIRATES 5 – TIGERS 4
Win: Gerrit Cole (1-0)
Loss: Anibal Sanchez (1-1)
On a beautiful day for baseball, the Pittsburgh Pirates (3-4) handed the Detroit Tigers (6-1) their first loss of the season in a Pirates 5-4 win.
What the Pirates did immediately was set the tone from Gerrit Cole pitching a 1-2-3 first inning, to Josh Harrison making it 1-0 with a first pitch home run off Anibal Sanchez.
Harrison broke out of his mini slump in a big way with the lead off home run and had two hits and two runs scored in the victory.
Cole breezed through the first six innings and pitched one-hit ball into the seventh.
“He was really good today,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “We’ve seen him really good before. The fastball command makes him dynamic.”
Cole struck out eight and walked just two, while allowing three hits. His masterful performance through six hit a bump in the road in the seventh when he was forced to exit the game after loading the bases with no outs.
Jared Hughes came to the rescue in getting three outs on just three pitches.
Hughes got Nick Castellanos to ground out on a first pitch 6-4-3 double play and Alex Avila fouled out for the third out of the inning as the Pirates surrendered just one run.
It was fitting for Hughes who is known inside the clubhouse as Mr. Double Play.
“He was our go-to guy with men on base last year,” Hurdle said of Hughes. “He’s got the weaponry to do it.”
Hurdle and pitching coach Ray Searage have a great deal of trust in Hughes stepping up in pressure situations and that’s why his poor spring didn’t work against him in earning a roster spot.
“When you come into the game with the bases loaded, you have to pound the zone,” Hughes said of his mentality.
For Cole, despite the hiccup in the seventh outing, Hurdle was giddy about Cole’s performance.
“He wants to be a master craftsman out on the mound, and you saw that today through six innings, ” Hurdle said. “He had command and execution against a lineup playing as big as any in the Major Leagues right now.”
What good teams do is build off of momentum situations and Hughes took momentum away from the Tigers in a blink of an eye after the Tigers finally got to Cole and the Pirates took control of the game moments later.
Pedro Alvarez led off the bottom of the 7th with a first pitch solo home run, his third of the season to make it a 3-1 game and Corey Hart smacked a two-run pinch hit homer (417 feet) in the seventh to push the Pirates lead to 5-1.
It was Hart’s 1,000th hit and he’s made an early impact off the bench in going 3-for-3 in pinch hit opportunities thus far.
Hart is 8-16 against Sanchez in his career. He said afterwards that getting to 1,000 hits is “exciting” and being able to play this long.
The Pirates were cruising to a multi-run win over the Tigers after the three-run seventh but Mark Melancon made things interesting in the ninth.
The top of the Tigers order got to Melancon as Ian Kinsler led off with a double and Miguel Cabrera drove Kinsler in with a double to deep left.
Melancon then allowed a two-run homer to J.D. Martinez and it was suddenly a 5-4 game with no outs.
Hurdle stuck with his closer and Yoenis Cespedes singled, putting the go-ahead run at the plate as Melancon allowed hits to the first four batters he faced.
Melancon battled back to get Nick Castellanos to ground into a 5-4-3 double play and struck out Victor Martinez to end the game.
Against a very good Tigers team, today’s home opener was a great one and had just about everything.