Joyce continues success vs. Verlander as DH

Slugger now 8-for-20 against former MVP starting pitcher

Joyce continues success vs. Verlander as DH

DETROIT -- As the Pirates opened Interleague Play against the Tigers in Detroit on Monday with a 7-4 win, outfielder Matt Joyce slotted into the designated-hitter role quite nicely.

Joyce entered the day 0-for-3 at the plate with three walks, but he also entered 6-for-17 with two home runs and two walks in his career against Monday's Detroit starter, Justin Verlander.

They hadn't matched up since 2013, and in Joyce's first at-bat, he laced an RBI single to give the Pirates an early lead. In the third inning, Joyce doubled to right field and later scored on a sac fly. In total, the day moved him to 8-for-20 against Verlander.

"It might just be one of those things," Joyce said of his success. "Maybe the breaks have gone my way more often than not. I don't know. Some guys tend to have better numbers against certain guys. Fortunately, I've had some decent success against somebody that's a great pitcher."

Manager Clint Hurdle didn't have an explanation for Joyce's success, other than to say some hitters just feel comfortable against some pitchers -- even former Most Valuable Player pitchers.

"He's gotten balls to hit and hasn't missed them," Hurdle said of Joyce. "The experience, he's got experience you like. I think he's got more at-bats against Justin than anybody on our club, and the barrel's shown up a little bit. It might be one of those couple matchups where you have a comfort zone not a lot of people have."

Hurdle, however, is not going to jump into the debate over the DH role.

Should both leagues have the same setup? It's a decades-old question. Hurdle knows which one he prefers.

"I enjoy the National League game, so that's my answer," he said when asked his preference. But what about different rules for different leagues? "Nobody's asked me, so we'll let the people who make those decisions make those decisions."

Less than two weeks removed from Spring Training, the Pirates recently used a DH, but Hurdle doesn't think it makes a difference in early-season Interleague Play.

"A National League club's never going to build a roster around having a DH," he said. "Maybe some clubs could look at adding a guy early to take advantage of it. You know the rules going in. You play by the rules. How we look at it, it's only two games, so we'll see where we go with it tomorrow."

Chris Vannini is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.