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Tigers hang on after winning rally in wild 8th

Dixon's FC produces go-ahead run; Norris' start sets tone
@JakeCrouseMLB
June 19, 2019

PITTSBURGH -- When a team is going through a rough stretch, sometimes it’s not how the win is earned, but just that it’s earned. Case in point: The Tigers ended a four-game skid with a 5-4 victory over the Pirates on Tuesday night at PNC Park, some of which came

PITTSBURGH -- When a team is going through a rough stretch, sometimes it’s not how the win is earned, but just that it’s earned.

Case in point: The Tigers ended a four-game skid with a 5-4 victory over the Pirates on Tuesday night at PNC Park, some of which came from their own doing, but a large part was done with the help of the Bucs’ defense.

For Detroit’s part in the win, the groundwork was largely laid by a stretched-out start from Daniel Norris, who tossed six innings and allowed just two runs. The first came on a homer to Josh Bell, his 20th of the season, on a changeup Norris thought was on the black, but it caught the middle of the plate.

Box score

That didn’t scare Norris, though, as he went back to the same pitch and executed it to strike Bell out in the sixth.

“The homer he hit was just not a good pitch,” Norris said. “I just didn’t throw it correctly. I have faith in all my pitches, and I can play swing and miss when I need to, so I just threw it with more conviction, and it did what it was supposed to.”

The left-hander gave up his second run on an RBI triple by Jung Ho Kang, but Norris stranded Kang at third and recorded 1-2-3 innings otherwise. Norris’ ability to limit the damage after giving up big hits is a part of what Norris calls playing under “controlled chaos.”

“I think that, in my head, I’m like, ‘OK, they got on, they got hits because I backed off a little bit,” he said. “So it’s not throwing as hard as I can, but it’s throwing with more conviction.”

By finishing the sixth, Norris accomplished something the Tigers’ rotation has struggled to do of late. Detroit went five straight starts of five or fewer innings entering Tuesday’s series opener, and with staff ace Matthew Boyd struggling in June (5.63 ERA in three starts), Norris’ ability to step up could be big to punching wins.

The Tigers also helped themselves in the third inning, with Nicholas Castellanos' RBI double and Miguel Cabrera's RBI single. But after that, the offensive production came in large part due to mistakes by the Pirates.

Detroit rallied for two runs in the fourth, set up by a two-base throwing error from Pirates starter Mitch Keller trying to get Harold Castro out at first after a sacrifice bunt. With runners on second and third and none out, John Hicks laced a 78-mph grounder that skipped under the glove of Kang, and that fielding error sent Brandon Dixon and Castro home.

A rough seventh for the Tigers’ bullpen tied the game back up at 4, but in the top of the eighth, Detroit responded in odd fashion. After a one-out walk by Castellanos and single by Cabrera, Christin Stewart was awarded first base after a video review showed that a pitch from Kyle Crick brushed the shoelaces of Stewart’s left shoe.

In the ensuing at-bat, Dixon appeared to have grounded into a potential double play, but Pirates second baseman Adam Frazier didn’t flip to second or follow through on a tag of Stewart, who backpedaled toward first to give Dixon time to reach. Frazier instead fired to first to get Dixon, allowing Stewart to motor to second as Castellanos crossed the plate for the go-ahead run.

“There’s a play to be made there, and I don’t think that’s the one,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. “Sometimes things happen -- you may change your mind in the middle of a play.”

Joe Jimenez worked out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the eighth, which ended with a bang-bang play at first, to do something the Tigers haven’t done much in June: give the ball to Shane Greene in a save situation.

Greene had pitched just four times in June entering Tuesday, and only two of those appearances came in save situations. His American League-leading 21st save wasn’t flawless, as he allowed a leadoff single to Kevin Newman and a one-out walk to Starling Marte.

But Greene got Bell to ground back to the mound to start a game-ending double play, the first Greene said he’s ever turned.

And it had to be a great first for him, as it helped the Tigers earn just their fourth win in 15 June games, albeit a crazy one.

“Tonight was big time for everybody," Greene said. “We’ve been fighting our tails off all season, and we’ve had some games lately that have been a little bit embarrassing for us. To come out tonight and fight to the end like that, and come out with the W, is big time.”

Jake Crouse is a reporter/editor for MLB.com based in Pittsburgh. Follow him on Twitter @JakeCrouseMLB.