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First inning home runs power Detroit to 11-5 victory in Pittsburgh

Tigers slug out another victory on the road against the lowly Bucs to clinch the series win

Detroit Tigers v Pittsburgh Pirates Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images

The Detroit Tigers pulled off another wild win in Pittsburgh Saturday afternoon, jumping on the Pirates early and, despite a lackluster outing by starter Iván Nova, ultimately cruising to an 11-5 victory to clinch the weekend series win.

Four of the first five Tigers homered off Pirates’ starting pitcher Derek Holland, staking Detroit to a 5-0 lead with nobody out in the first inning. Niko Goodrum led off the game with a home run down the left field line. Jonathan Schoop followed with a single through the left side of the infield and scored on Miguel Cabrera’s two run blast, his fourth of the season. CJ Cron followed with a blast to right-center field, also his fourth, and Jeimer Candelario joined the fun with his first homer of the season, a 451 foot shot to left.

The Tigers put two more runners on base in the inning on a single by Victor Reyes and a walk to Grayson Greiner, but they were stranded when Goodrum grounded out in his second plate appearance of the inning. Tigers led 5-0 heading to the bottom of the first.

The last time four Tigers homered in the first inning was in 1974 when Al Kaline, Bill Freehan, Mickey Stanley and Eddie Brinkman all went deep against the Cleveland Indians. It has been done eight times previously in major league history.

Iván Nova, the former Pirate, took the mound for Detroit and sent his former team down with just a single by shortstop Kevin Newman in the bottom of the first. The Tigers added a run in the second inning on a three singles from Schoop, Candelario and Travis Demeritte. Nova retired the Pirates on five pitches in the second inning on two grounders to the mound and a bouncer to Schoop at second base. Detroit 6, Pittsburgh 0 after two frames.

The Pirates got on the board in the third inning on a pair of singles by Jarrod Dyson and catcher Jacob Stallings, and an RBI double by Newman, scoring Dyson. Stallings scored the second run on a ground out to second by Gregory Polanco. 6-2 Detroit after three innings.

Nova was uncharacteristically wild, walking the first two batters in the fourth inning, and a one out single by Dyson scored the third run for the Pirates; Dyson took second on the throw to third. Pittsburgh’s fourth run scored and Dyson took third on a wild pitch by Nova. After Stallings drew the third walk of the inning, Nova struck out Adam Frazier, and Newman singled up the middle to make it 6- 5. Josh Bell grounded out to Schoop to end the inning.

Holland retired the Tigers in order in the top of the fifth inning, and Nova got back on track by doing the same in the bottom half of the inning to keep the Tigers up by a run after five frames.

Holland took the mound in the sixth and gave up the Tigers fifth home run of the game to JaCoby Jones. Demeritte followed with a double off the top of the fence in right field and scored on a double down the left field line by Schoop. With the Tigers now leading by an 8-to-5 score, Holland was done for the day. He would be charged with nine runs on 13 hits while striking out six.

Nick Mears made his major league debut in relief of Holland, facing future hall of famer Miguel Cabrera. With Schoop on second, Cabrera hit a sky high foul fly down the right field line.

With Polanco coming in from right field and first baseman Philip Evans running out from first base, the two players collided, with Polanco’s elbow appearing to catch Evans in the face, sending both players sprawling to the ground. Polanco held onto the ball as Schoop tagged up and scored. Evans was taken off on a stretcher, with his neck in a brace. He was alert as he was taken off. Polanco remained in the game.

Mears walked Cron and Candelario singled him over to third and Demeritte waked to load the bases with one out. After striking out Reyes, Mears walked Greiner to score a run. Jones then struck out to end the inning with the Tigers holding a four run advantage.

Nova pitched 5.0 innings, allowing five runs on six hits, three strikeouts and four walks. He was replaced in the sixth by Jose Cisnero, who worked around a base on balls to set the Pirates down, the Tigers leading by a 10-5 score after six innings.

The Tigers plated another run on a pair of two out doubles by Cabrera and Cron off reliever Sam Howard to restore the six-run lead.

Gregory Soto entered the game for the Tigers in the seventh and retired the Pirates in order. Tigers 11, Pirates 5 after 7 innings.

John Ryan Murphy,a catcher on the Pirates’ roster, pitched a scoreless eithh inning, retiring the Tigers in order. Kyle Funkhouser worked a scoreless eighth for Detroit , allowing only an infield single. That earned him a chance to close it out in the ninth and he made it interesting.

Stallings singled to lead off the ninth, and was erased on a fielder’s choice. Newman got his fourth hit of the game to put runners on first and second with one out. Murphy, the Pirates’ catcher/pitcher, lined a dangerous looking ball to right field but Demeritte made a diving catch to save a couple of runs. Funkhouser then got Polando to fly out to left field to end the game.

The 11-5 victory leaves the Tigers at 7-5 for the season in second place, percentage points ahead of the Cleveland Indians. Savor it!

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly!

Good: 28 runs in two games is a refreshing change for the Tigers offense, which had been given up for dead recently. Cabrera, Schoop, and Candelario each had three hit performances, and every Tiger in the regular starting lineup is now hitting above the Mendoza line for the season.

Bad: After blowing a five run lead in the 8th and 9th innings on Friday, Detroit almost blew a six run lead on Saturday. Nova, who is known as a “pitch to contact” pitcher, walked three batters and uncorked a wild pitch in the fourth inning to let Pittsburgh back in the game.

Ugly: It’s never good to see a player taken off the field in an ambulance. Phil Evans may have been unconscious before he hit the ground after taking a shot to the head. Hopefully, he will be alright.

Tough luck: Grayson Greiner, who is looking for his first hit of the season, drew a pair of walks for the Tigers and also reached base on a missed third strike, but was called out for running inside the baseline as the ball hit him. Every other Tiger in the lineup had at least one hit today.