Pittsburgh Pirates pitching threw zeros on the Comerica Park scoreboard all night, but it took awhile for the offense to get the only run it needed.
Neil Walker’s towering solo home run in the 11th inning stood up as the only run of Tuesday night, as the Pirates (32-20) stifled one of the best offenses in baseball in a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers.
Jeanmar Gomez got the Bucs pitching off to a tremendous start, throwing seven shutout innings to lower his earned-run average to 2.30. Justin Wilson (two innings) and Mark Melancon (one) followed out of the Pittsburgh bullpen, then gave way to Jason Grilli. The 36-year-old former Tiger plowed through the heart of the Detroit batting order, striking out Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in succession to record his MLB-leading 21st save of the season in as many opportunities.
Tigers starter Rick Porcello was just as effective as Gomez, if not more so. The righthander went eight innings, striking out a career-high 11 while walking only one; Porcello has allowed one earned run in three lifetime starts against Pittsburgh.
Joaquin Benoit threw a scoreless ninth and Jose Ortega held the Pirates off the board in the 10th, but Walker drove a first-pitch breaking ball from Ortega deep into the right-field bleachers with one out in the 11th, the only extra-base hit of the game.
The teams have split the first two games of their home-and-home interleague series, which shifts to Pittsburgh for Wednesday and Thursday night matchups at PNC Park. After a rainy, cold Memorial Day in Detroit, Tuesday evening was warmer, but showers delayed the start of the game for a little over an hour.
Neither team advanced a runner as far as second base until the eighth, when the Pirates’ Pedro Alvarez led off with a single and moved up on Travis Snider’s walk. Walker got to third with two outs in the top of the ninth, but Garrett Jones popped up to end the inning.
The Tigers’ best chance to score came in the 10th, when Jhonny Peralta singled to lead off the inning and Omar Infante walked one out later. However, Melancon struck out Brayan Pena and got Andy Dirks to ground out to escape the mini-jam.
Detroit fans thought their team had won it in the ninth when Victor Martinez drove a Wilson fastball to the left-field wall with two outs, but Starling Marte tracked it down to extend the game. Marte and Andrew McCutchen teamed up to expertly cover the spacious Comerica Park outfield, with McCutchen making a pair of double-saving grabs in left-center over the course of the game.
Wilson was a revelation, as the rookie lefty touched the high 90s with his fastball while navigating a pair of frames, including a dicey eighth when shortstop Clint Barmes’ throwing error put Infante on second with one out.
As expected, the pitching-dominated evening produced some ugly batting lines for both sides. While Walker had three hits in five at-bats, Jones and Marte each went 0 for 5, plus Gaby Sanchez and McCutchen struck out three times apiece. Pittsburgh fanned 14 times compared to eight for Detroit.
The Tigers (29-21) had keystone hitters Hunter, Cabrera and Fielder each go 1 for 5, while Dirks (0 for 5) and Martinez (0 for 4) came up empty.
After finishing their short road trip at 3-2, the Pirates send ace A.J. Burnett to the PNC Park mound Wednesday night against Anibal Sanchez, both of whom started their careers with the Marlins. Sanchez carried a no-hitter into the ninth inning of his most recent start against Minnesota.