Backed by Jarrod Saltalamacchia's sixth-inning grand slam for his 100th career home run, right-hander Shane Greene settled in to throw six solid innings and lead the Tigers to a 7-3 win over the Pirates on Wednesday night at PNC Park.
After falling behind by two runs in a 35-pitch first inning, Greene held the Pirates without a hit for four innings and didn't give up a run the rest of the night. Greene struck out seven, walked three and allowed three hits in his first start of the season.
"He hasn't been out there on the mound in a week, and he hasn't started since Spring Training," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "But he was able to get through it, shake off the rust and he was really good the rest of the way."
Saltalamacchia provided all the run support Greene needed with one swing off Arquimedes Caminero, launching his fourth career grand slam over the Clemente Wall in right field to put Detroit ahead. That wasted a solid start by Pirates righty Ryan Vogelsong, who stepped into the rotation for the injured Francisco Liriano.
Making his first start in a Pirates uniform since Sept. 29, 2004 -- and his first start against Detroit since Game 3 of the 2012 World Series -- Vogelsong retired the Tigers' first seven hitters and allowed only one run. The only damage off Vogelsong came in the fourth inning, when Ian Kinsler took him deep to dead center field. Otherwise, Vogelsong's first start since Spring Training went as well as the Pirates could have hoped for.
"It had been a while since I had been out," Vogelsong said. "To be able to come out and be pretty sharp with everything, I was excited about that."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Run it up: The Pirates didn't hit Greene hard in the first inning. In fact, they sent only one ball out of the infield. But they continued an early-season trend by seeing a lot of pitches, working long at-bats and keeping him on the mound for a long time. In the end, the Pirates took a 2-0 lead on a leadoff hit, an infield single, two walks and a potential double-play grounder that Gregory Polanco beat to first base.
"If you can push one into the gap to get more than two, you're always better served," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "But we got two."
Greene recovers: Though Greene gave up only one hard hit in his long first inning, he was reeling from back-to-back four-pitch walks to bring in a run and nearly bring up the bullpen. Needing to settle in, Greene recovered to put Polanco and Josh Harrison in 0-2 counts. Polanco grounded into a fielder's choice before Harrison chased a slider off the plate to give Greene the escape he needed to regroup. More >
Called into action: Needing bullpen depth behind Vogelsong, the Pirates promoted A.J. Schugel from Triple-A Indianapolis on Wednesday afternoon. A little less than 24 hours after he found out he was heading back to the big leagues, Schugel was on the mound facing the Tigers' imposing lineup. The right-hander held his own, preserving the bullpen and firing 2 1/3 scoreless innings, allowing one hit and striking out two.
"I thought he did a really good job," Hurdle said. "He mixes things up, gave us the needed innings. ... He did a nice job for us." More >
Two-out rally: Saltalamacchia's slam completed a two-out rally that began with Miguel Cabrera's double but continued with key at-bats from J.D. Martinez and Nick Castellanos. Martinez fouled off a 100-mph fastball from Caminero on a 3-2 pitch before taking a 101-mph heater for a walk. Castellanos followed the ensuing mound visit by swinging at the first-pitch fastball, lining a single to right to load the bases.
"I think that was the game," Cabrera said. "We fight every inning. It was a big, big rally with two outs. It seemed like we never gave up in that inning. We were aggressive, ready to swing the bat, make something happen. Castellanos, Salty came with big, big swings."
QUOTABLE "He settled in, put his foot down and stopped us." -- Hurdle, on Greene's performance after the first inning
"We're looking to focus more when they come in with some guy who throws hard. We don't get big. We fight the at-bat. We have an attitude out there. We have to." -- Cabrera, on the Tigers' improved production off relievers so far this season
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS Kinsler has three home runs in the Tigers' first seven games. He didn't hit his first home run last year until the Tigers' 51st game, and he didn't hit his third home run until Game 73.
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers:Jordan Zimmermann returns to his National League roots for just his third career matchup against the Pirates in a getaway matinee Thursday at 12:35 p.m. ET to wrap up the four-game home-and-home series. Zimmermann, 0-2 lifetime against Pittsburgh, tossed seven scoreless innings, while allowing two hits, in his Tigers debut Friday in Detroit.
Pirates: After shaking off the rust in his season debut on Saturday in Cincinnati, Gerrit Colewill look for his first win of 2016 as the Pirates and Tigers meet again at PNC Park. Cole went 2-0 with a 2.13 ERA in two starts against the Tigers last season.