Right-hander Shane Greene fired eight innings of three-hit ball and Rajai Davis broke a scoreless tie in the seventh inning as the Tigers beat the Pirates, 2-0, at PNC Park on Tuesday night.
Pirates starter A.J. Burnett received a warm welcome from the crowd of 31,755 in his return to Pittsburgh. The 38-year-old right-hander sailed through six innings before running into trouble in the seventh, issuing two one-out walks that quickly came back to haunt him.
Davis came to the plate with two on and two outs in the seventh, slapping a 3-1 pitch from Burnett into center field to bring home catcher Alex Avila. Burnett then left the game, having given up one run on seven hits over 6 2/3 innings.
The Tigers added a run in the ninth on Ian Kinsler's RBI single.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Burnett escapes first jam: The Tigers had a chance to break through against Burnett in the fourth inning, when J.D. Martinez reached on a two-out single and Yoenis Cespedes followed with a double off the right-field wall. Burnett responded by striking out Nick Castellanos on an 82 mph curveball, unleashing a big fist pump on his way off the mound. More >
"Any time you've got guys in scoring position, it's big. Any time. But it was a big pitch in a big time," Burnett said. "To be able to hold them at bay right there, to get us back in the dugout was really my only thing. But we take pride in keeping them from touching home plate. Any time you get a guy in scoring position and you shut 'em down, it's a boost."
It looks easy being Greene: Not only was Greene effective, he was efficient, working through the sixth inning at 62 pitches and the seventh at 72. He avoided three-ball counts and induced 10 ground-ball outs, six of them in three pitches or less. In so doing, he took the Tigers middle relief out of the equation, and made manager Brad Ausmus' decision to let him hit for himself in the seventh relatively easy. More >
"This kid, I told him last year he would be one of the best pitchers in the league. He's able to do so many things," said Pirates catcher Francisco Cervelli, who caught Greene for the Yankees last season. "He hides the ball pretty well, and his sinker is just good. I give him the whole credit today. We couldn't score runs. You pitch well, but this guy was amazing."
Iglesias shines at short:Jose Iglesias demonstrated he had his legs back during Spring Training. His strong arm apparently never left. Both were on display Tuesday, not just with a throw from deep in the hole to first base on the fly to retire Burnett, but in a throw he made from his backside up the middle, albeit too late to retire Pedro Alvarez. The more Greene induces grounders, the more chances Iglesias gets.
"He enjoys the game a lot," said Ausmus on his shortstop. "I think you can see that he enjoys the game in his style of play, both defensively and on the bases. He has a lot of fun with the players in batting practice. He enjoys being out in the field. He likes to entertain. That's part of Jose Iglesias' schtick."
QUOTABLE "I think [Burnett] gave everything he could, but we couldn't help him today. We couldn't hit, and that's it." -- Cervelli, on Burnett's start
"He had good movement. He mixed his pitches. I don't think it hurt them that there were more right-handed hitters in the lineup with that sinker. I think that sinker and slider combo is good against right-handed hitters. He pitched outstanding." -- Ausmus, on Greene's eight shutout innings
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Greene is the first Tigers pitcher to begin a season with back-to-back starts of at least eight innings and no earned runs since Bob Sykes pitched back-to-back shutouts in 1978, according to baseball-reference.com. Other Tigers to do it include Hal White in 1942, Schoolboy Rowe in 1936 and Roxie Lawson in 1935.
HURDLE EJECTED Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was ejected by home-plate umpire David Rackley during Cespedes' at-bat in the eighth inning. Hurdle appeared to be yelling from the Bucs' dugout, arguing about ball and strike calls during Cespedes' at-bat against Pirates reliever Arquimedes Caminero.
After getting ejected, Hurdle came out of the dugout to argue with Rackley. Caminero wound up walking Cespedes, but retired the next batter to get out of the inning unscathed.
"Basically, I felt a strike needed to be called. It wasn't," Hurdle said. "I said something. Normally, if you violated something, the guy will tell you to shut up and that's enough. Obviously I didn't get that opportunity to shut up. It was gone. I felt we had a strikeout we didn't get."
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers:Alfredo Simon will see a familiar foe in the Pirates, his opponent for four starts with the Reds last season, trying to earn a series victory for the Tigers on Wednesday at 7:05 p.m. ET. Simon had a gem going in Cleveland last Friday before giving up five consecutive hits and three hits in the sixth, forcing Detroit's bullpen to scramble into action.
Pirates: As the Pirates host Jackie Robinson Day, left-hander Francisco Liriano will make his second start of the season Wednesday night after being reinstated from the paternity list on Monday. Liriano started on Opening Day for the Pirates, giving up two runs and striking out seven over seven innings. He returned home to the Dominican Republic last week for the birth of his daughter, Natalie, leading the Pirates to push back his turn in the rotation.