Walker’s homer lifts Pirates in 11
DETROIT – The Detroit Tigers couldn’t find a way to get a run and wasted a gem by Rick Porcello.
Detroit’s usually potent lineup was shut down by the Pirates for 11 innings in a 1-0 loss Tuesday night.
Neil Walker homered for Pittsburgh. Jeanmar Gomez started the tough night for Detroit, pitching seven shutout innings, and former Tigers reliever Jason Grilli finished it off by striking out Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder for the save.
“This is a tough one,” Hunter said. “Gomez had his two-seamer working, and we couldn’t get the ball in the air. He was throwing strikes and making us swing the bat, and we couldn’t do anything when we did.”
Porcello matched a career best with eight innings and struck out a career-high 11 batters.
“I’ve never had a game with this many strikeouts, and I don’t remember having anything like this,” he said. “I’m usually trying to get ground balls. I was just throwing everything for strikes and getting guys to chase good two-strike pitches out of the zone.”
Porcello isn’t the first Tigers pitcher to dominate Pittsburgh at Comerica Park. Last season, Justin Verlander took a no-hitter into the ninth against the Pirates, two days before Max Scherzer struck out 15 batters in a 4-3 victory.
“Someone said to me today that we seem to strike out a lot in this ballpark,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “I told them to look at Detroit’s pitching staff. Everyone strikes out a lot against those guys.”
Walker – the brother-in-law of Tigers center fielder Don Kelly – homered off Jose Ortega (0-2) with one out in the top of the 11th.
“I’ve been swinging the bat really well on this road trip, and I’ve been getting the barrel on the ball just about every night,” Walker said. “That kid throws hard, but he kind of floated a slider into the strike zone and I was able to drive it.”
Then it was time for Grilli, who had to face the heart of Detroit’s order.
“That’s as good as it gets in any lineup in the game,” Hurdle said. “That’s why you have a closer.”
For Grilli, it also meant trying to finish a game at Comerica Park – a stadium where he had been booed relentlessly at the end of his four-season stint with the Tigers.
“I have nothing but great memories of this place,” Grilli said. “This is where Jim (Leyland) turned me into a reliever, and despite what the media might think, I love coming back here.”
Leyland knows just how far Grilli has come since moving to the bullpen in 2006.
“He’s found a home and he’s found a role and he’s been terrific,” he said. “That’s 21-for-21, and to do that against the heart of our order – that’s impressive.”
If the situation or the setting bothered Grilli, it certainly didn’t show.
“That’s a great offense, and Miguel Cabrera is probably the best hitter in baseball right now,” Grilli said. “So I was trying to not make a big mistake, but you can’t spend much time thinking about that. You just go out there and win the game.”
Mark Melancon (1-0) picked up the win with a scoreless 10th inning for Pittsburgh.
NOTES: The start of the game was delayed 1:13 by rain. … The Pirates placed Jose Contreras (low back inflammation) on the 15-day disabled list and recalled reliever Bryan Morris from Triple-A Indianapolis. … The Tigers have struck out 10 or more batters 28 times – the second-highest total in franchise history behind last season’s 50. Detroit is currently on pace for 91 double-digit games. … Porcello pitched into the ninth on July 21, 2012 against the White Sox, but didn’t record an out.