Pirates now 3-0 after sweeping Motown twin bill

April 1st, 2018

DETROIT -- The Pirates had to wait through two postponed games this weekend. When they did take the field, they had to handle the biting cold of the Midwest in late March. They had to prepare for three games in a 27-hour span from Sunday's doubleheader to Monday's home opener. Through it all, they found different ways to win.

Friday was a 13-inning, last-team-standing slugfest. Sunday afternoon was a pitchers' duel decided by one timely hit. The Pirates completed a season-opening sweep Sunday night in slightly less dramatic fashion, powering their way past the Tigers in an 8-6 victory at Comerica Park.

"When you play 162 of 'em, you usually get to see everything," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "We just got to see a little bit more of it in the first three games."

In Spring Training, Hurdle touted the depth of Pittsburgh's lineup. It was on display Sunday night, with Josh Harrison leading from the top. Harrison finished 3-for-5 and fell a triple shy of the cycle.

"It hasn't been the easiest weekend, I think, for all of us because we want to play. It was good to come and get a sweep, man," Harrison said. "We had to battle the elements. But at the end of the day, good wins, especially for our team with everybody being involved."

Center fielder , batting third, and third baseman , making his first start, each blasted a home run into the left-field seats. Catcher , batting ninth, went 2-for-4 and scored two runs. Six Pirates drove in a run over the two games Sunday, with Harrison and Freese each driving in two.

"We definitely have some length," Harrison said. "I think it showed in Spring Training, guys being healthy and getting pitches they want to hit."

Led by a home run and a double by , the Tigers put up four runs in 5 2/3 innings against Pirates starter but fell to 0-3 to begin the season for the first time since 2008. Kuhl gave up eight hits and struck out four without a walk in his season debut, and most of Detroit's offensive production came from Cabrera (3-for-4) and cleanup man (2-for-5 with an RBI and two runs).

"Ugly line, kind of, a little bit," Kuhl said. "But it was really just those three-four guys that did the damage."

Right-hander defused a jam in the sixth, and -- making his season debut -- worked two scoreless innings. After allowed a run without recording an out, closer shut the door with his second save of the day to complete the doubleheader sweep. More >

"It's all about winning, so we feel really good," Kuhl said. "And we're going to hand the ball to [Jameson Taillon] tomorrow, so we feel even better about that. We're in a good spot."

MITEL REPLAY OF THE DAY

Batting with Diaz on first base in the third inning, Harrison smacked a 2-2 pitch from Carpenter off the left-field wall. Harrison sped into second, as the hit was ruled a double. The Pirates prompted a crew-chief review, and the replay official definitively determined the ball struck an area that is out of play. The call on the field was overturned, and Harrison rounded the bases with his first home run of the season.

"When I hit it, I was just leaning, trying to keep it fair. I didn't really see where it hit," Harrison said. "[Tigers second baseman Dixon] Machado was like, 'Oh, it was definitely fair; they just didn't know where it hit.' … I was perfectly fine with a double, but thank God for the review."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED

No review necessary: One batter after Harrison's double-turned-homer, Marte smashed a home run to left field that required no further review. According to Statcast™, Marte's no-doubter came off his bat at 106.3 mph and traveled a projected 400 feet. Marte combined for only 16 homers over the past two seasons, which were shortened by a back injury and an 80-game suspension, after hitting 19 in 2015. The Pirates are counting on Marte, who hit third Sunday night against left-handed starter , to bounce back offensively this season.

Cabrera goes oppo: The Tigers' first home run of the season was a familiar-looking shot for Cabrera, who took a Kuhl fastball in the sixth inning and sent an opposite-field loft into the right-field seats for his 463rd career homer. The ball left his bat with a 106 mph exit velocity, according to Statcast™, traveling an estimated 383 feet. It marked his fourth ball in play with an exit velocity over 100 mph this season; his ninth-inning double made it five.

Deep Freese: Freese watched the Pirates' first two games of the season from the dugout before entering the lineup Sunday night. After grounding out and striking out in his first two at-bats, the veteran infielder got in on the action to punctuate Pittsburgh's five-run fifth inning. Freese's first hit of the season was a two-run homer to left off Tigers reliever . The shot had an exit velocity of 108 mph, the second-hardest homer he's hit since 2015.

That ended a rally in which Diaz singled, Harrison doubled, lifted a sacrifice fly to left and singled to drive in Marte.

QUOTABLE

"Baseball's definitely a weird game. The past three games definitely have caused some different wins. I think it was a good, collective team effort." -- Harrison

"I think our offense is going to play. Guys worked hard to make some adjustments. … Trust some guys, clean slates, go get 'em. The guys have played well together here on the road. Now, we're all looking forward to going home." -- Hurdle

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS

According to research from STATS, Sunday's Pirates-Tigers twin-bill marked the earliest doubleheader by date in Major League history. Game 2 was also the earliest night game by date in Comerica Park history, beating the second game of the 2003 season by one night.

You don't have to look too far back to find the Pirates' last 3-0 start. It was in 2016, when they swept the Cardinals at PNC Park to begin the season. But this is the first time Pittsburgh has ever started Interleague Play with a 3-0 record. 

WHAT'S NEXT

Pirates: After Sunday's doubleheader in Detroit, the Pirates will return to Pittsburgh on Monday for their home opener. Right-hander Taillon will make his season debut at 1:05 p.m. ET against Twins right-hander at PNC Park. The Pirates will become the first team in Major League history to begin the season with consecutive Interleague series.

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