It had to happen sooner or later, and Monday was that day. After starting 6-0 for the season, the Detroit Tigers dropped their first game 5-4 against the Pittsburgh Pirates in the series opener as a result of three home runs allowed by Anibal Sanchez, and flat offense through much of the game. A ninth inning rally put the Tigers within one, but it was not enough to give the Tigers their seventh win of 2015.
Sanchez gave up just four home runs all season last year. He gave up three in Monday's series opener against the Pirates. The first pitch Sanchez threw was deposited into the right field seats for a home run. He settled in to retire 12 consecutive batters after a leadoff single, double, and sacrifice fly in the third, keeping it a 2-0 game. But after striking out nine batters and getting on a roll, Sanchez started the seventh inning exactly like the game -- a first pitch home run -- then allowed a single and a two-run homer to end his day.
Meanwhile, the red-hot Tigers offense turned ice-cold against Pirates starter Gerrit Cole. Very little contact was made against the righthander, and Detroit had just two baserunners until the sixth inning -- a single in the second and a two-out walk in the fifth. It wasn't until the seventh inning that the Tigers got their first run of the day. Miguel Cabrera hit a leadoff single, which J.D. Martinez followed with a walk while Yoenis Cespedes worked a seven-pitch single, loading the bases with no outs. Nick Castellanos drove in the first run on a groundout double play, putting the Tigers on the board.
That's all the Tigers' offense would get until a rally in the ninth inning. Ian Kinsler hit a leadoff double that Cabrera followed with an RBI double of his own, making it 5-2 in favor of the Pirates. With Cabrera at second, J.D. Martinez smoked a two-run home into right field, putting Detroit within one. Cespedes then singled but Castellanos killed the rally by grounding into his second double play of the game. Victor Martinez, brought in to pinch hit for the Tigers, struck out for the final out of the game for a 5-4 loss.
Miguel Cabrera: The roars nearly got designated for assignment until Cabrera did Cabrera things. He hit a leadoff single in the seventh came around to score, then scored Kinsler from second in the ninth-inning rally with a double. The American League Player of the Week finished 2-for-4 with two runs scored and an RBI.
J.D. Martinez: Got one hit but it was a bullet. In the ninth inning, J.D. hit a two-run home run and made it a 5-4 game. Martinez finished 1-for-3 with a run scored, two RBI, and a walk for the day.
Anibal Sanchez: Sanchez retired 12 straight batters and wracked up nine strikeouts, but eight hits, a sacrifice fly, and three home runs allowed -- one a first-pitch, first inning home run, and two homers in the seventh -- put the Pirates ahead 5-1. Sanchez's day ended after 6 1/3 innings and 95 pitches after the two-run homer to Corey Hart.
Offense: For the first time this season the Tigers failed to score in the first inning, and had just two baserunners through five innings. Gerrit Cole kept the Tigers off-balance with weak contact, getting them to swing early and strike out six times through five. They loaded the bases in the seventh but had just one run to show for it.
Nick Castellanos: Twice the Tigers got within one of the Pirates with no outs and both times Castellanos erased their chances by grounding into double plays. Nothing says killing a rally like erasing two chances on one play. He finished 1-for-3 with no strikeouts, but the double plays said it all Monday.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH: