Cole cruises as Pirates hand Anibal, Tigers first loss
Gerrit Cole pitched one-hit ball into the seventh inning andJosh Harrison, Pedro Alvarez and pinch-hitter Corey Hart homered, and the Pirates held on for a 5-4 win over the previously undefeated Tigers in Pittsburgh's home opener Monday afternoon.
Anibal Sanchez made 101 pitches without giving up a run in his first start Wednesday, but his first pitch this time was deposited in the right-center seats by Harrison to jump-start the Bucs in front of 39,933, a record regular-season crowd in PNC Park.
Detroit chased Cole by loading the bases with none out to open the seventh, but Jared Hughes came on to induce Nick Castellanos into a first-pitch double play and got Alex Avila on a popup to retire the side.
Pirates closer Mark Melancon entered a 5-1 game in a non-save situation in the ninth and surrendered three runs, two on a homer by J.D. Martinez, before closing it out.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Harrison raises the curtain with a bang: Harrison waited little time giving the home crowd a chance to cheer. No time, really -- he belted Sanchez's first pitch into the right-center stands for his third career leadoff home run. That may not sound overly impressive, but Harrison was making only his 97th career start as a leadoff batter.
Big swings, momentum and otherwise: One minute, the Pirates and Cole were in trouble, their 2-0 lead threatened with the bases loaded with Tigers and none out in the seventh. Eight pitches later, the Bucs led, 5-1: Hughes got three outs on three pitches, Alvarez began the bottom of the inning with a first-pitch homer, Francisco Cervelli singled and Jordy Mercer sacrificed on first pitches, and Hart homered on a 1-0 pitch.
Sanchez shines, but long ball haunts him: Sanchez's first and last pitches ended up in the seats at PNC Park, his first multi-homer game since Oakland got him in the 2013 American League Division Series. He looked good in the middle, retiring 12 consecutive hitters from the third through sixth innings. But the seven home runs Sanchez allowed in Spring Training now look more like a sign than an anomaly.
Staying alive, but unrewarded: The Tigers had only a Castellanos single and an Avila walk to show for six innings off Cole before Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes loaded the bases in the seventh. All three fell in 0-2 counts but fouled off fastballs at 95-plus mph to stay alive and chase Cole. Just when the Tigers had their chance, Hughes induced a Castellanos double-play grounder on the first pitch, scoring a run but halting the momentum. Five pitches into the bottom of the seventh, Detroit trailed by four runs, and Victor Martinez's window as a pinch-hitter had passed.
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Sanchez gave up almost as many home runs (three) in 6 1/3 innings Monday as he did over 126 innings in 2014 (four).
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers: A decade after the Tigers tried to woo A.J. Burnett as a budding young free agent, they'll try to hit him as a crafty Pirates veteran on Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. He's 6-2 lifetime against Detroit despite a 5.19 ERA in 11 career meetings. Shane Greene will start for the Tigers, trying to follow up on his eight innings with an unearned run last time out.
Pirates: Burnett makes his return PNC Park start in the second game of the Interleague series, squaring off against Greene. The Bucs will be looking for their seventh straight Interleague victory at home.