Walker leads Bucs' 21-hit attack in win over Tigers
DETROIT -- Second baseman Neil Walker's two-homer night propelled the Pirates to a season-high 21 hits as they topped the Tigers, 9-3, on Wednesday night at Comerica Park.
Pittsburgh took command with a five-run third against Detroit starter Alfredo Simon. The inning was highlighted by Walker's first home run of the night, which followed a leadoff double from third baseman Josh Harrison. Walker, left fielder Starling Marte and designated hitter Pedro Alvarez all homered in the eighth inning off reliever Joba Chamberlain to all but seal the win.
"We jumped on him and were aggressive," said Jordy Mercer, whose fifth multi-hit game in his last nine was part of the Pirates' first 21-hit game since May 13, 2004. "He was leaving balls out over the plate."
Simon was historically bad -- he became the third Detroit starter since the 1950s to allow 15 or more hits -- and the Tigers' offense did little to keep the game competitive. Though they struck first on Nick Castellanos' RBI single in the second inning, they managed just one more run against Pirates starter A.J. Burnett.
"Today is a tough pill to swallow, because we got our butts kicked," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Man bites dog, seven times: The Pirates never got more than five hits or four runs off Simon in his first five starts against them. In the third inning alone, the Bucs jumped Simon for seven hits and five runs.
"His command wasn't as sharp as in the past. That changes everything," said Pirates manager Clint Hurdle. "It was a challenge for him tonight. We got some better looks, and took some better swings." More >
Beleaguered bullpens: Following Tuesday's 14-inning game, both teams needed their starter to pitch deep into the ballgame. Simon allowed two hits in the first, two in the second and seven in the third, but Ausmus didn't pull him until the righty yielded two singles in the sixth. Similarly, Ausmus left Chamberlain in despite surrendering three home runs in an outing for the first time in his career.
"We had to get through this game without expending everyone for tomorrow," Ausmus said. More >
Doubled up: One of the few bright spots for the Tigers was J.D. Martinez, who finished with three hits and recorded his first career two-assist game. His most impressive moment came in the seventh inning, when the right fielder caught a Jordy Mercer line drive, ran into the wall and relayed to Ian Kinsler, who fired to second base to double off Francisco Cervelli.
"I still am extremely confident in this team," Ausmus said. "It's a winning ballclub. It's probably a little bit of a surprise what the record is based on the personnel, the names on the back of the jersey. But I fully expect this team to be a winning team when the 162 games are done."
The fuse reaches the bomb: The Pirates' offensive awakening included a three-homer inning by one of the National League's long-ball laggards. Walker -- with his second of the night -- Marte -- with his career high-tying 13th of the season -- and Alvarez went yard on Chamberlain in the eighth.
"The boys came out swinging," Burnett said. "It was good to see Pedro get one and for Walker to have the day he had (4-for-6). Anytime they come out swinging like that, man, it helps out."
"I'd boo myself too. I mean, you can't be mad at it. You spend your hard-earned money to come see somebody be successful, and you don't be successful. I'd boo myself too. First of all, this isn't anything booing compared to New York City. I've seen it all. You play this game long enough, you're gonna get booed. At the end of the day, you go and do your job. If you don't do your job, you get booed." -- Chamberlain, on the crowd's displeased reaction to his pitching
"Actually, he started this morning -- and carried it into today." -- Hurdle on Walker, who had a game-winning hit at 12:25 a.m. ET before his four-hit game in the evening.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Simon yielded 15 hits, a new career-high. The last Tigers starter to allow that many hits in a game was Scott Sanders, who surrendered 16 over four innings in 1998.
Chamberlain became the third Tiger reliever since at least 1914 to allow three home runs in an inning or less, according to Baseball-Reference.
Since May 22, the Pirates are 18-2 when scoring at least four runs in a game.
In the sixth inning, play was briefly halted when Walker ran face-first into Miguel Cabrera's arm and glove while legging out an infield single. Walker had hit a sharp ground ball that ricocheted off Simon, and the pitcher scrambled to make the throw to first. It was off-line, and as Cabrera reached to try and make the catch, his arm impacted the second baseman's head. After being attended to by trainers, Walker stayed in the game.
"For a second, there was concern," said Hurdle, who joined the trainer on the field to check on Walker. "He showed up fine. Anytime the head is involved, we need to make sure we pay it the best attention we can."
Pirates: Francisco Liriano will take the ball in the 1:08 p.m. ET series finale against the Tigers in ideal conditions for him: The lefty has a 2.30 ERA on the road, and a 2.25 ERA in day games, but has dropped nine of his last 10 decisions against the Tigers.
Tigers: Lefty Kyle Ryan will take the hill for Detroit in Thursday's series finale at Comerica Park. Ryan hasn't seen action since June 24, when allowed two runs over 2/3 of an inning in relief, raising his ERA to 4.56.
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