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Game 40 Preview: Pirates at Tigers

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PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 13:  A.J. Burnett #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Houston Astros during the game on May 13, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 13: A.J. Burnett #34 of the Pittsburgh Pirates pitches against the Houston Astros during the game on May 13, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
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Pittsburgh Pirates (18-21) at Detroit Tigers (19-20)

Time/Place: Comerica Park, 4:05 p.m.

SB Nation Blog: Bucs Dugout

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: A.J. Burnett (1-2, 5.12 ERA) vs. Drew Smyly (1-0, 2.31 ERA)

Burnett's last start against the Tigers came in Game 4 of the ALDS, and he was pretty good. Burnett gave up 1 run in 5 2/3 innings while his offense torched the Tigers bullpen en route to a 10-1 Yankees win. Fortunately for the Tigers, this is the best he has been in Detroit. He owns a 7.17 career ERA at Comerica Park in 4 starts.

In general, Burnett has been pretty good this season. He got roughed up by the St. Louis Cardinals in one start -- 2 2/3 innings, 12 earned runs -- but hasn't allowed more than 2 runs in any of his other 4 starts this year. Feared slugger Gerald Laird owns a .625 career average against Burnett in 8 at bats, but anyone with more than 10 career plate appearances against him has not enjoyed as much success.

Poor Drew Smyly. How the heck do you follow what Justin Verlander did last night? Fortunately, Smyly has shown quite a bit of resolve this season and seems immune to the weight of any and all expectations on his shoulders. His ERA ballooned to 2.31 after he gave up 4 runs in his last start against a Chicago White Sox team that was seeing him for the second time in two weeks.

Quietly heating up

April slash line: .236/.273/.347. May slash line: .319/.439/.404. The power isn't quite there yet, but Jhonny Peralta has largely flown under the radar during the Tigers' recent stretch. He only has 6 RBIs during this period, but that is already more than he had all of April.

Outlook

Somewhat lost amid the story of Justin Verlander's performance last night is the fact that the offense scored 6 runs and were threatening for most of the game. It was a very welcome sight for a fanbase that has seen multiple performances where the offense sputters after scoring an early run or two. Also welcome? Delmon Young hitting the baseball. Unfortunately, that might be short-lived; he is just 3 for 17 lifetime against Burnett. Defensively, I just hope that the pitching staff forces someone other than Andrew McCutchen to beat them.

Prediction

Drew Smyly does not go into the 9th inning with a no hitter. Sorry.