Tigers’ four early home runs sink Pirates
PITTSBURGH — Maybe the Detroit Tigers should get four unexpected days off more often. Or maybe they should just face a pitching staff in tatters.
Either way, Detroit’s struggling offense has found traction in Pittsburgh. Niko Goodrum, Miguel Cabrera, C.J. Cron and Jeimer Candelario all hit home runs in the first inning against Pirates starter Derek Holland as the Tigers drilled the Pirates 11-5 on Saturday.
Goodrum took the second pitch he saw from Holland (0-1) and sent it into the seats in left field. Cabrera did the same two batters later. Cron followed with a blast to center. Candelario finished it off with a shot that scraped over the all to give Detroit it’s first four-homer inning in seven years.
“When something like that happens in the game, you can feel it in the dugout,” Cron said. “People get excited and want to step up and do the same thing. It just snowballed. We all got some good pitches to hit and it was a fun first inning for sure.”
The Tigers were idle for four days when a series against St. Louis was postponed after COVID-19 spread through the Cardinals’ clubhouse. Detroit arrived in Pittsburgh hitting just .205 on the season. That average has now jumped to .239 after scoring 28 runs in 20 innings against the Pirates.
“As an offense, four days off never hurt anybody,” Cron said.
Cabrera got three hits, including his 481st career home run. The 37-year-old also drove in three runs to move him past Hall of Famer Jim Thome and into 24th on the all-time list with 1,701. Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson is next with 1,702.
A night after driving in five runs, Goodrum homered and doubled. Jonathan Schoop added three hits and JaCoby Jones turned aside a Pittsburgh rally when he led off the sixth with his fourth home run of the season after the Pirates had drawn within 6-5.
Ivan Nova (1-0) nearly let a big early lead slip away. The veteran, who played two-plus seasons for the Pirates from 2016-18, gave up five runs on six hits with three walks and three strikeouts.
Kevin Newman tied a career-high with four hits and drove in two runs for Pittsburgh. The Pirates have dropped 9 of 10.
Holland, who made the team out of summer camp after signing a minor league deal in the offseason, needed to eat up some innings after the Pirates churned through eight pitchers on Friday.
The 11-year veteran is a boxing fanatic — of former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson in particular — and watches a video that splices knockouts with important strikeouts he’s recorded. He was on the receiving end of a flurry from the Tigers in the game’s opening minutes.
Holland, however, dug in. At one point he retired 10 of 11 batters and didn’t leave until three batters into the sixth. He threw 112 pitches in all while giving up nine runs on 13 hits.
“I told myself, too, no matter what, with what was going on with the bullpen, you’ve got to go as far as you possibly can,” Holland said. “I don’t care what the pitch count was. I told them, too: extend it. I don’t care if it’s 100 pitches. Give me 150, I don’t (care).”
After going through three relievers, the Pirates turned to catcher John Ryan Murphy in the ninth. Murphy retired the Tigers in order on eight pitches in his third career appearance on the mound.
SEE YOU IN ST. LOUIS
The Pirates are scheduled to begin a three-game series in St. Louis on Monday. That trip appears to be in doubt as the Cardinals continue to scramble to contain a coronavirus outbreak.
“I would certainly expect and want to have more information before we get on the plane for sure,” Pittsburgh general manager Ben Cherington said.
Pirates 1B Phil Evans exited on a stretcher in the top of the sixth and taken to a hospital for observation after colliding with RF Gregory Polanco while they tried to chase down a flyball in foul territory. Polanco’s right elbow hit Evans in the head as the two reached for the ball. Evans was alert while being strapped to a board by medical personnel. Polanco, who also briefly went down, remained in the game.
Pirates: Closer Keone Kela (COVID-19) pitched an inning of live batting practice but there remains no timetable for his return.
Tigers: Spencer Turnbull (1-0, 2.45 ERA), who ended a 19-start winless streak last week when he beat Cincinnati, will go for his second victory on a row in the series finale on Sunday.
Pirates: Steven Brault will be the emergency starter on Sunday after Pittsburgh scratched Joe Musgrove due to soreness in his right ankle.