Walker lifts Bucs to marathon victory over Tigers
DETROIT -- Neil Walker's double down the right-field line scored the go-ahead run in the 14th inning as the Pirates outlasted the Tigers, 5-4, on Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
Until the eighth inning, it seemed as if the Buccos would claim the series opener easily, but a pair of Martinezes quickly erased a two-run deficit. Two batters after Detroit designated hitter Victor Martinez reached on a leadoff single to left field, J.D. Martinez launched the second pitch he saw from Tony Watson over the left-field wall. But neither team broke the tie until the 14th, when Josh Harrison doubled off lefty reliever Tom Gorzelanny and Walker drove him in a batter later.
"We just kept throwing it out there, really. Really a good team win," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Justin Verlander pitched into the seventh inning, but the Pirates did most of their damage to support starter Gerrit Cole well before then. Gregory Polanco's sacrifice fly in the second opened the scoring, and Pittsburgh plated a pair in the third on a Francisco Cervelli ground ball and Jordy Mercer sac fly. Center fielder Andrew McCutchen added an insurance run in the eighth by singling home Chris Stewart.
Right-hander Deolis Guerra pitched the 12th, 13th and 14th for Pittsburgh -- navigating through trouble each time -- and earned the win. More >
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Summer slugger: J.D. Martinez's 20th home run of the season was a big one, as the right fielder's blast tied the game at 4 in the eighth inning. The homer was Martinez's 11th of the month, tied for the third most in franchise history and the most since Mickey Tettleton hit 11 in 1993.
"I know [Watson] throws hard," Martinez said. "I was ready for a fastball and was able to get one and put a good swing on it."
Weird baseball: In the 14th inning, Gorkys Hernandez misread a line drive into the right-center-field gap. The pinch-runner rounded second base, then turned around, believing Rajai Davis had made a diving catch in center field. He hadn't, and Hernandez didn't tag second base as he sprinted toward third. Detroit appealed, and, after a meeting on the mound, Gorzelanny threw to second, where Hernandez was called out.
"It was a mess," said reliever Alex Wilson. "Rajai made a heck of an effort on that ball. From my seat in the dugout, it was hard to tell what really happened as well. Baserunning blunder ended up helping, but unfortunately it didn't end the inning for us." More >
Put 'em on, move 'em over, leave 'em on: Both pitchers got ample chances to pitch up to their clutch reputations, but the Pirates were particularly lenient toward Verlander. Seven of the first 11 Buccos batters reached in the first two innings, but they mined only one run on a sacrifice fly by Polanco. The Pirates left 19 men on base in the game.
"I'm past that," Hurdle said of the missed opportunities. "When things don't go our way, we take the attitude, 'So what? Now what?'"
Cole had his 12th win ... then he didn't: Cole was five outs away from his MLB-leading 12th win, but J.D. Martinez ended that opportunity with his game-tying two-run homer off Watson in the eighth.
"The fans wanted it a little bit quicker than baseball rules allow. You actually have to engage the hitter and then step off and do that. I understand. All of us, as soon as we saw [the play] happen, we were like, 'Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.' We had it under control. We knew what we were doing. It just takes a second on that kind of deal." -- Wilson, on the Tigers' appeal of Hernandez's baserunning
"For me to stack more left-handed hitters in the lineup, I would have to go get [pitchers Jeff] Locke and [Francisco] Liriano, and that's not going to happen." -- Hurdle, on loading his lineup against Verlander with every lefty bat (three) he had
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Tuesday was the longest game of the season for both teams.
The Pirates entered June seven games behind the National League Central-leading Cardinals, went 17-9 -- and came out of the month eight games behind.
It did not take long for the Pirates to lose their challenge privileges: With two men on and none out in the first, Verlander uncorked a wild pitch that sent Polanco to third, but catcher James McCann's throw to second baseman Ian Kinsler erased Neil Walker. The Pirates challenged the call, but it stood.
The umpires convened again in the fifth inning when McCann hit a line-drive double off the top of the right-field wall that may have tipped the glove of a fan who was reaching over the fence. The ball was initially ruled in play, scoring J.D. Martinez from second and putting Nick Castellanos on third. After a 4-minute, 3-second review, the call was changed to a ground-rule double (fan interference), leaving McCann on second and Castellanos on third.
"I understand if [fans] are out there and they have a chance to grab a ball," J.D. Martinez said. "If I was a fan and I had a glove on and I was sitting in the first row, I'd try to do the same thing."
Pirates: A.J. Burnett goes for his 13th quality start in 16 shots when he faces the Tigers in Tuesday's 7:08 p.m. ET second game of the Comerica Park Interleague series. He has gone seven-plus innings in seven of his first 15 outings.
Tigers: Alfredo Simon, coming off two of his worst starts of the season, takes the hill on Wednesday night. The right-hander allowed seven runs in 2 2/3 innings on June 20 against the Yankees, then surrendered five runs last Thursday.
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