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Tigers hit 4 homers before recording 1st out

@beckjason
August 8, 2020

The Tigers scored five runs Saturday before they recorded their first out. By the end of the fourth inning, they needed all of those runs. Four of Detroit’s first five batters homered off Pittsburgh starter Derek Holland, putting the Tigers ahead for good -- though it drew close later --

The Tigers scored five runs Saturday before they recorded their first out. By the end of the fourth inning, they needed all of those runs. Four of Detroit’s first five batters homered off Pittsburgh starter Derek Holland, putting the Tigers ahead for good -- though it drew close later -- in an 11-5 win at PNC Park.

Niko Goodrum, Miguel Cabrera, C.J. Cron and Jeimer Candelario all went deep to start off, with a Jonathan Schoop single snuck into the mix. The Tigers’ first four-homer opening inning in 46 years was the first in the Majors since 2018. It’s the first time in Detroit’s 120-year history that the club hit four home runs before its first out in a game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

Box score

“My old boss that gave me an opportunity in the big leagues to coach was Tom Kelly,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said, referencing the longtime Twins skipper. “And his big statement was: Always make sure you're ready for the first inning. And I'm going to think that we were ready for the first inning today. We came out swinging.”

Two games out from a four-day hiatus, the Tigers have posted double-digit runs in back-to-back games for the first time since 2017, churning out 16 hits in consecutive wins. In that two-game stretch three years ago, they faced Holland as well. The veteran lefty entered the game with a 4.26 ERA and seven homers allowed in as many career starts against Detroit.

It’s a different Tigers lineup now, but many of Detroit’s veteran hitters have a history with Holland as well.

“We were trying to attack him, because he throws strikes,” Schoop said. “And it worked. We came out swinging the bats.”

Their four-homer, five-batter outburst came off Holland’s first 11 pitches.

“I was on the attack,” Holland said. “You look at the board that first inning, I think at one point I saw I was 14 strikes, four balls, two or four balls. We had the right game plan. Those guys just came out pretty aggressive and made us pay for it.”

The Tigers loaded up on right-handed hitters in their lineup to test Holland, then quickly took advantage. Goodrum, who drove in five runs from the leadoff spot Friday night, started the home-run parade by driving a high fastball out to left. After Schoop singled to left, up came Cabrera, whose 481st career home run was his third off Holland.

“When something like that happens early in the game, you can feel it in the dugout,” Cron said. “People get excited and people want to step up and do the same thing. It just snowballed. We all got some good pitches to hit.”

Holland’s 0-2 curveball went down and in, but Cabrera -- 6-for-13 off Holland at that point -- extended on it and sent it out to left for his fourth home run of the year.

Cron, watching from the on-deck circle, took notice. He also hit an 0-2 pitch out for his fourth homer of the year. In his case, it was an elevated fastball that he sent out to center.

“Miggy going deep 0-2 helped me out a lot,” Cron said, “mostly because he hit a curveball out. And so when I got to 0-2, I didn’t really throw out the curveball, but I was fairly confident he was going to try to beat me up top or inside with the fastball. If Miggy doesn’t go deep 0-2, that opens up a lot more pitches.”

Once Candelario hit Holland’s next pitch, a fastball over the middle of the plate, out to left-center field, the Tigers had three consecutive home runs for the first time since Alex Avila, Cabrera and J.D. Martinez went deep in the first inning against Rangers starter A.J. Griffin on May 20, 2017, at Comerica Park.

Not since June 1, 2013, had the Tigers hit four home runs in any inning. Martinez, Jhonny Peralta, Avila and Cabrera went deep in that game at Baltimore. Their last four-homer opening inning happened on July 29, 1974, against the Indians, powered by Al Kaline, Bill Freehan, Mickey Stanley and Ed Brinkman.

The last four-homer opening inning from any big league team came off the bats of the Royals against the Orioles on May 8, 2018. Jorge Soler, Mike Moustakas, Salvador Perez and Alex Gordon homered.

The Tigers had a 6-0 lead after the second inning, but the Pirates whittled away against their former teammate, Iván Nova. Unlike Holland, Nova’s battle came in bits and pieces. He allowed a lone extra-base hit, a Kevin Newman double, but paid for three walks over his first four innings.

“You have to keep your mindset like it’s a 0-0 game,” Nova said. “I know it’s hard to do something because you feel comfortable that you have a big lead, but you have to make sure you don’t lose it. Today I was almost giving it up. … Just lost the feel for the pitches. I feel if I give up hits, doubles, I feel much better than if I’m walking people.”

Once Newman’s RBI single drew Pittsburgh within a run in a two-walk fourth, the Pirates had the potential tying run in scoring position against Nova, who recovered to retire Jacob Stallings to end the threat before sending down the side in the order in the fifth. A four-run sixth, including JaCoby Jones’ fourth home run of the season, put the game away.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.