Alex Avila opened the second with a five pitch walk. He went to second when AJ knocked down Omar Infante's hard shot up the middle, taking the out at first. Don Kelly drew another five pitch free pass to bring up Sanchez, who bunted them up a base. Andy Dirks bounced out to short, and AJ has dodged a couple of bullets so far while tossing 40 pitches. Russell Martin went down swinging on three pitches, and Pedro did the same. At least Travis Snider hit the ball, bouncing out softly to first.
AJ got his pitch count to a better place, tossing seven pitches that resulted in three ground outs to the Tigers' 2-3-4 hitters in the third. Sanchez had another efficient frame. He's thrown first strikes to all 10 Pirates, five looking. Burnett retired the side quietly and quickly in the fourth. Sanchez started off with another strike, but to the wrong guy. The sizzlin' Kid punched a slightly elevated, down the middle heater over the right center wall. Cutch lined out while Jones K'ed and Martin popped, but the Bucs were up 1-0.
Kelly opened the fifth with a five pitch walk; this time, Burnett didn't miss as much as didn't get any calls on the black from plate ump Wally Bell. Sanchez showed his AL chops by failing to get a bunt down, but it worked anyway. The pitch he K'ed on was also a wild pitch not terribly well played by Russell, moving Kelly to second. Dirks followed with a double to right on a fastball down the middle, and just that quickly the game was tied.
Miggy untied it after a Torii Hunter groundout when he took a heater, up and over the outside half, yard to right. Prince Fielder, as he does so well against the Bucs, took a pitch away to the opposite field for a single, and Dirks followed with another to put Tigers on the corners. AJ sat down Avila swinging, but it's 3-1 Tigers. That third out was hard to come by; maybe the inning would have been saved if Burnett worked eight hitter Kelly a little harder...and he's back up to 80 pitches. Sanchez tucked the Bucs away with two more K.
Kelly, hitting .186, walked for the third time with one down in the sixth, was bunted to second and stayed there as Dirks flew out. AJ went six, giving up three runs on five hits and four walks with four K after 97 pitches. It was a decent outing, but with no support again, it's perfect or no win for him. Sanchez tossed another 1-2-3 frame; he's opened with a first strike to 20 consecutive batters. Bryan Morris took the ball for Pittsburgh in the seventh.
He started by plunking Hunter. Morris then battled Miggy, staying down and never showing him a fastball, and got him to bang a 3-2 slider to short for a 6-4-3 DP, made easier by Cabrera's half-hearted effort to get down the line. Fielder flew out for a clean frame.
With an out, Jones laced an 0-2 slider into center for the Pirates third hit. Martin saw a ball on the first pitch, breaking the Sanchez streak at 23 hitters, and walked on four pitches. Pedro caught a sinker up and over the outer half and smacked it to the bullpen for a game-tying double. Snider followed by jumping the first pitch and doubling off the Clemente Wall to score Pedro, tumbling in under the tag, and the Bucs had an improbable 4-3 lead.
A wild pitch moved Travis to third, and a nicely executed Mercer suicide squeeze brought him home, with the added bonus of ending up a base hit when no one covered first. Jordy stole second with Gaby up on what may have been a hit-and-run that he swung through. Sanchez eventually fanned, but Marte kept the inning alive with an infield knock to short to put Bucs on the corners. The Kid was up, and Sanchez was yanked for lefty Drew Smyly. Marte swiped second, but Walker left them stranded when he left the zone for a slider away and flew out to right. Now it's 5-3 Bucs and time to feed the Shark Tank.
Out came Tony Watson for the eighth; we're guessing with a two run lead and after 22 pitches last night, Clint Hurdle is hoping to save some wear and tear on Mark Melancon. Tony struck out Peralta, but Brayan Pena followed with a knock. Omar Infante flew out before Matt Tuiasosopo gave the fans an edge-of-the-seat moment by hitting one deep to right, but Snider had it measured easily as Hurdle's gamble paid off.
Cutch greeted Smyly with a hard knock up the middle. Brandon Inge pinch hit and took a slider for a called strike three; Cutch was the second half of a strike 'em out, throw 'em out DP. Cutch gave up on the play, perhaps thinking it was ball four, while Inge has to swing at anything close knowing Cutch was on the move, (and it was a strike on the inside corner), so it was a my bad all around. Martin K'ed, and it was on to the ninth with Jason Grilli on the bump to face a pinch hitter and the top of the order.
Victor Martinez started off by lining a pitch at his knees into right in a good piece of hitting. Dirks hit one on the ground, and the Bucs settled for a force out. Avisail Garcia looked at a heater for strike three, and Miggy flew out to right on the next pitch. Grilli had his 22nd save and Bryan Morris claimed his second win.
For six innings, the Buc batters were completely baffled by the fastball-change-occasional breaking ball of Sanchez. But the team MO is to play all nine innings hard and they seem to get better as the game goes on. That's how they rolled tonight for a sweet win over a good Tigers club. And give AJ props; he didn't have his best stuff, but kept a potent Detroit lineup from running away and hiding early, allowing the pen to come in and do their thing after the bats woke up.
Jeff Locke hooks up with Doug Fister in tomorrow night's finale.
- Jason Grilli has has saved 22 of the Pirates' 33 wins. Guess he was ready for the closer role.
- Neil Walker had a HR-1B-HR streak against Detroit before whiffing in the sixth; all the hits were on the first pitch. He was the only Buc to reach base twice tonight.
- AJ Burnett had his string of seven inning starts snapped at five, but he's still gone six or more in nine of his past ten starts.
- The Pirates are 18-8 this month.
- The Bucs banged out two doubles and a homer to run their MLB leading streak to 48 straight games with extra base knocks.
- Jameson Tallion had a rough opening frame for Altoona, then found his groove. He went five frames, gvving up four runs on four hits and four walks with five K. All the runs and hits came in the first inning.
- Against Pittsburgh at Comerica Park, Tigers pitchers put up 14+ strikeouts in back-to-back games for first time since 1916. The Detroit hurlers slacked off a bit tonight, just picking up 11 punch outs.