The Detroit Tigers’ offense was thoroughly out-classed by Pirates’ starter Trevor Williams on Monday night. They squandered a solid outing by Jordan Zimmermann managing just one hit, and fell 3-0 in the first of this two-game set.
From the start, this game had the feel of your typically tight Tigers-Pirates matchup. As so often happens when these two teams meet up at PNC Park, an old-time baseball game broke out, with the assistance of a generous strike zone from home plate umpire Larry Vanover. There were few hard hit balls, few strikeouts, and quality defense played by both sides.
The Pirates got on the board first when Francisco Cervelli doubled home Gregory Polanco in the second inning after Polanco had reached on a hit by pitch. Otherwise, there was precious little offense from either team, with a lot of quick outs on both sides.
Jordan Zimmermann pitched a solid game, but let a few at bats slip away from him after getting ahead. He used his fastball up and on the edges with good command, and kept the slider out of the heart of the strike zone until the very last pitch he threw. It wasn’t pretty overall, with only a couple strikeouts against three walks, but he was able to keep the Pirates in check.
On the offensive side, the Tigers mustered just a minor threat in the third with James McCann singling and then stealing second. Unfortunately Ian Kinsler’s bid for a two-run shot to right fell just shy, landing instead in Polanco’s glove. So it went as the game progressed, with Andrew McCutcheon robbing Mikie Mahtook on a line shot into the right-centerfield gap, and Sean Rodriguez snaring a rocket off the bat of Miguel Cabrera at shortstop. There were scant few hard hit balls besides those two.
In the bottom of the fifth, Zimmermann walked Trevor Williams, the Pirates starting pitcher, and for a moment it felt like an ominous sign. However, Dixon Machado cleared the air by spearing a one-hop bullet off the bat of Starling Marte and making a back-handed flip to Ian Kinsler to start the 6-4-3 double play. One batter later, Nick Castellanos snared another hot grounder to end the inning.
Zimmermann was within one out of finishing seven innings of one-run ball in under 100 pitches. Unfortunately, after getting ahead of Francisco Cervelli, Zimm started nibbling and surrendered a walk. He then got ahead of pinch-hitter John Jaso and did the same thing, eventually going to a 3-2 count and hanging a slider, which Jaso deposited deep in the right field bleachers. With Daniel Stumpf warm in the bullpen, the decision to stick with Zimmermann against Jaso, who has all his power from the left-handed side, was a bad move by manager Brad Ausmus and they paid for it.
Alex Wilson kept the Tigers in reach with a snappy eighth inning, but Pirates’ closer Juan Nicasio had no trouble smothering any hope of a comeback.
Alex Wilson: A very nice eighth inning with a pop-up and a strikeout kept the Tigers within striking distance.
Brad Ausmus: Jordan Zimmermann isn’t an ironman. At 100 pitches with a man on and Jaso at the plate, the Tigers manager should’ve gone to Daniel Stumpf to turn Jaso around. Bad call.
The Offense: BLEH. Vanover and Cervelli’s framing gave the Pirates quite a few of questionable strikes, but the Tigers managed only a handful of hard hit balls on the night.
Stats and Info
-James McCann’s second inning stolen base was just the second of his career. The first came against the Royals way back on September 19, 2014.