Bucs bested by Verlander's complete game

Bucs bested by Verlander's complete game

Bucs bested by Verlander's complete game
PITTSBURGH -- Taking a big-picture look at his team's situation prior to Sunday afternoon's game at PNC Park, manager Clint Hurdle had bubbled:

"It's a beautiful day, we'll have another nice crowd and we get [Justin] Verlander. That's pretty good."

It was pretty good. But just as it was about to get great, Delmon Young delivered a tie-breaking single off Chris Resop with two outs in the eighth to give the Tigers a 3-2 victory.

Resop, starting his second inning in relief of Kevin Correia, had issued a one-out walk to Quintin Berry, who stole second with two away to put himself in position to score on Young's grounder through the hole between first and second.

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"Fastball. Normally that'd get hit up in the air. But he covered it, and hit that ground ball through the right side," Hurdle said of the Young swing that marred the outcome of the game, but could not ruin the weekend.

A few minutes earlier, Garrett Jones had energized a crowd of 35,179 by humanizing Verlander with a two-run homer that tied it at 2 with one out in the seventh.

"I got excited," admitted Hurdle who, having been ejected from the game by plate umpire Marty Foster three innings earlier, could pound the desk in his office without embarrassment.

"We had the game tied up, and could've gotten a win against the best pitcher," Jones said. "But we come away winning the series, so definitely that's the second-best thing."

Despite the ultimately disappointing loss, the Bucs wrapped up a 4-2 homestand and embarked on a seven-game trip to Philadelphia and St. Louis. The Pirates (38-33) return to league play after going 10-8 against American League clubs.

"A great weekend. It was electric," Hurdle said. "The stands, the boats [on the Allegheny] ... just the activity. The amount of Pirates garb, the flag ... hoist the colors. It was really, really cool."

Up until Jones followed Pedro Alvarez's single with his ninth homer, Verlander, who also owns the National League in Interleague matters, owned a 15-inning shutout string over the Pirates. That began with his May 18 no-hit threat in Detroit, broken up by Josh Harrison's single with one out in the ninth.

Alex Presley made sure there would be no no-hit suspense in the rematch, bunting Verlander's second pitch of the game for a base hit down the third-base line.

And Harrison again tried to get into Verlander's face: His two-out drive to left field in the eighth inning was kept out of the stands by Ryan Raburn's leaping above-the-wall catch.

"I hit it too high, so I wasn't sure ... I was just hoping, 'Lose it in the sun,'" Harrison said of having given a good, but vain, try at conquering PNC Park's challenging dimension.

"I never think of a ball getting out of left field," Hurdle said with a shrug, "until it hits the seats."

Pittsburgh's only other hit between Presley's bunt and the seventh-inning rally was on another ball bounced to third baseman Miguel Cabrera -- by Michael McKenry, who legged out that third-inning chopper for a single.

That infield hit completed a rather adventuresome third inning for the Pirates catcher. In the top of the frame, he nailed Austin Jackson attempting to steal second -- snapping a string of 30 straight steals against the Bucs since May 10. In that game in Washington, Danny Espinosa had been caught with the same battery, Correia and McKenry.

With Verlander poised to take his 18-2 Interleague record to the mound, the game got off to the most discouraging start imaginable: Four pitches into it, Correia and the Pirates trailed, 2-0. Jackson hit the first for a single, and Berry pulled a 2-0 pitch into the right-field seats for his first career homer in 96 Major League at-bats -- and only his 21st in 2,664 professional at-bats, including the Minors.

"A fastball down the middle of the plate. I had a two-ball count on the second batter of the game, and I just tried to throw a strike," Correia conceded.

It gradually became apparent that it was also a haunting beginning, because Correia proved to have the stuff and mettle to otherwise stay with Verlander. He had few other blips on the way to completing his six-inning stint with an allowance of six hits and a walk, while striking out four.

Verlander wound up with his fourth complete game, allowing five hits and the two runs while walking one and striking out seven. Correia's tenacity at least got him a no-decision.

"You don't expect to be down 2-0 after two hitters, but after that I knew they'd be aggressive and I just made the adjustment to take advantage of that," Correia said. "I knew that if I kept it to two, we'd have a chance."

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog Change for a Nickel. He can also be found on Twitter @Tom_Singer. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.