PITTSBURGH -- John Jaso delivered the biggest hit Monday night, belting a two-run home run in the seventh that gave the Pirates some much-needed breathing room in their 3-0 victory over the Tigers at PNC Park. But his teammate, shortstop Jordy Mercer, was kind enough to let Jaso know that his long ball ultimately didn't matter.
"Mercer kind of brought to my attention that we really didn't need that homer," Jaso said. "It still felt good to hit it."
To Jaso's credit, the Pirates didn't need many hits with the way Trevor Williams was pitching. The right-hander delivered his best start, allowing just one hit and three baserunners in seven innings.
"One-hitters are pretty good," said manager Clint Hurdle, who last witnessed the Pirates complete a one-hit shutout April 17, 2013, in a 5-0 win over the Cardinals. "This is a hard level to play at. That's a pretty good team over there swinging the bats."
But Williams' strong pitching hasn't always translated to wins. The Pirates have lost eight of the righty's past 15 starts, even with him posting a 3.86 ERA in those contests. His counterpart, Detroit righty Jordan Zimmermann, forced the Pirates to sweat it out for six innings, holding them to one run on three hits before Jaso's homer provided breathing room for Pittsburgh's bullpen.
Zimmermann made a mistake in the seventh against Jaso, who entered Monday with just one hit in his past 34 at-bats. With the Pirates leading 1-0, Zimmermann tossed Jaso five curveballs during a seven-pitch at-bat. The fifth was a hanging curveball that Jaso sent to the bleachers in right-center field.
"I made pitches when I needed to except for that last one to Jaso," Zimmermann said. "I think I went to the well one too many times with the curveball and left it middle. If I throw it away where all the other ones were, it's probably a different result."
The Pirates have won four out of five and remain in contention in the National League Central. The Bucs are 4 1/2 games behind the first-place Cubs, who beat the Giants, 5-3, in San Francisco.
"We are playing really good baseball right now," Williams said. "We are getting on a roll again."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Cervelli snaps out of it: Francisco Cervelli chose a good time to halt his 10-game slump. On a night when hits came at a premium, Cervelli raked a two-out double to right-center in the second to score Gregory Polanco from first. It was Cervelli's first extra-base hit and his first RBI since he tripled July 21 at Colorado.
"It's been a long time. I just focused today and did my job," Cervelli said. "I was able to put it in the gap. Good. I hope I can do it more."
Kontos' sharp debut:George Kontos picked up right where Williams left off in his Pirates debut. The Bucs acquired Kontos on Saturday, claiming him from the Giants, and activated him before's Monday's game. He didn't disappoint in his first appearance, needing only 10 pitches to retire the side in order in the eighth.
"When he's on the mound, he looks so confident, especially with the slider," said Cervelli, Kontos' former teammate in the Yankees' system. "He played on a team where he won a World Series, so he knows how to do it. I think it's going to be an amazing thing for us." More >
"He's selfless. He's gotten to the point where he realizes it isn't about him winning a game or losing a game. It's about him going out trying to help us do something in a game. … It's been a crazy year [for him]. The start, then the hot middle and then the spot that he's just gone through. Hopefully he's sparking again." -- Hurdle, on Jaso
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Polanco scored the Pirates' first run on Cervelli's double. He reached when he was hit by a slider from Zimmermann. It was just the third time in Polanco's career -- the third time in 1,885 plate appearances -- that he was hit by a pitch.
This was the Pirates' first one-hitter of any kind since June 4, 2014, a game they lost to the Padres, 3-2. Francisco Liriano walked six and allowed all three runs that day at Petco Park.
Williams was sensational, but he received some help from center fielder Andrew McCutchen in the fifth. Mikie Mahtook roped a liner to center field, but McCutchen arrived just in time to make a diving grab. According to Statcast™, the catch probability was just 38 percent, making it a four-star catch, with McCutchen needing to cover 55 feet in 3.7 seconds.
"It's fun having McCutchen in center field running down everything," Williams said. "We made some great plays tonight."
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers: On Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. ET, left-hander Matthew Boyd will try to extend his unbeaten streak to five starts since rejoining the rotation. Boyd won three consecutive starts in July before taking a no-decision thanks to a fifth-inning exit Thursday at Baltimore.
Pirates:Chad Kuhl will get the start for the Pirates as they continue their four-game home-and-home series against Detroit on Tuesday at PNC Park. The righty is coming off his best start of the season -- seven scoreless innings against the Reds on Thursday. He has rounded into form after a rough start, posting a 2.70 ERA and .620 opponents' OPS since July 1.