The Detroit Tigers held off the Pittsburgh Pirates for a 6-5 win on Monday afternoon as Justin Verlander finished with 13 strikeouts in seven innings of work. The five-time All-Star settled in for his sixth win of the season after a few shaky starts earlier in the year.
The Pirates took an early lead in the first when Andrew McCutchen drove in Neil Walker with a sacrifice fly. Verlander rarely gives up runs early in ballgames, but he worked out of the jam and went on to hold the Pirates scoreless over the next five innings.
The Tigers’ lineup gave him some support in the fourth after an RBI-single by Jhonny Peralta tied the game at one. In the following inning, the Tigers took the lead after back-to-back doubles.
Victor Martinez drove in two runs with his double to left and Peralta drove in another in the following at-bat. With a 4-1 lead going into the sixth inning, Verlander looked to have it in the bag as he continued to shut down the Pirates.
The win wouldn’t come without a fight, as the Pirates cut into the Tigers’ lead in the seventh that ultimately ended Verlander’s day. Gaby Sanchez doubled to start the inning, and after two quick outs, Travis Snider drove him in with a triple to deep left.
Neil Walker drove in Snider with a double in the next at-bat to cut the Tigers’ lead to one at 4-3. Jose Contreras came into the game in the bottom half of the seventh to keep the Pirates in striking distance, but he failed to hold down the Tigers and Jhonny Peralta once again made the difference.
Peralta couldn’t be stopped on Sunday, and it was apparent after an infield single in the seventh that brought in Miguel Cabrera to make it 5-3 Tigers. Contreras never recovered and went on to walk the next two hitters, forcing another run across the plate.
Contreras’ struggles were short lived when the Pirates made another move in the eighth as the Tigers’ relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit gave up two runs. The Pirates were on their way to a huge comeback, but Jose Valverde came into the game in the ninth and closed it out for his sixth save of the year.
Justin Verlander was shutting down one hitter after another through the middle innings, and he spoke with reporters after the game while noting his improvements on the mound.
“I felt better. I wouldn’t say I had it all rolling,” Verlander said in the locker room. “Still a little inconsistent, but definitely better and taking steps to moving in the right direction.”
Will Justin Verlander’s solid outing on Monday give him the confidence going forward after early season struggles?
[Image via Kevin Ward]