Pittsburgh — Strange night.
PNC Park was nearly empty Tuesday night, as if COVID-19 capacity restrictions were still in place. The crowd was announced at 8,329, but that seemed exaggerated. And so quiet. At one point, music from a nearby outdoor concert was louder than the stadium noise. There wasn’t much energy being generated on the field, either.
The Pirates and Tigers, two teams operating far from the glare of the playoff chase, slogged through a game that featured 18 hits, 12 walks, 16 strikeouts, 22 runners left on base — and only five runs.
And for the second straight game, the 89-loss Pirates locked down the final three innings and beat the 75-loss Tigers, 3-2.
“It was tough for us to get anything started,” manager AJ Hinch said. “But the bottom line, you’re not going to win against teams if you put as many base runners on as we did then have the lack of timely hitting,
“We didn’t do anything to create our own energy and it cost us at the end. It was winnable, but we were also fortunate to be close based on how many opportunities we gave them.”
The Tigers have scored runs in just two innings in the 18 innings played in Pittsburgh.
“Obviously, you saw the fans weren’t out as much as they were yesterday, but that’s no excuse,” said center fielder Derek Hill. “We just have to be better. Point-blank period.”
The Tigers took a 2-1 lead into the bottom of the sixth and right-hander Alex Lange quickly dispatched the first two batters. But Yoshi Tsutsugo reached on a swinging-bunt infield hit to keep the inning alive.
Bryan Reynolds doubled him to third and Colin Moran walked to load the bases. Ben Gamel, who had three hits on the night, ripped a two-run single to right to put the Pirates ahead.
The game did produce another milestone for Miguel Cabrera. With his three hits, he passed Ichiro Suzuki to become the all-time interleague hits leader with 369. He is now 35 hits short of 3,000 for his career.
But mostly, there was oddness.
►In the first inning, Tigers starter Wily Peralta shattered the bat of Kevin Newman. The ball rolled down the third base line. The jagged-ended barrel flew precariously close to third baseman Jeimer Candelario, who had make a two-step move to keep from being impaled.
The ball did roll foul.
►In the top of the third, Pirates lefty starter Dillon Peters not only walked Willi Castro, which, given in 5% walk rate, is tough to do, he walked Peralta, who has had just four plate appearances since 2017, on four pitches.
►Castro, who walked twice in the game, ended up scoring the first Tigers’ run on a triple by Hill. Although, he was set to stop at third base until left fielder Ben Gamel’s throw from the corner rolled about 52 feet to the cut-off man. Gamel couldn’t stop his momentum and ended up crashing into the wall at the same time he was releasing the throw.
Robbie Grossman’s single scored Hill for the second run of the inning. Somehow, though, Peralta didn’t score on a fly ball single down the line in right field by Cabrera, a ball that right-fielder Tsutsugo cautiously tracked as if there were snakes in the outfield grass.
►With two outs in the bottom of the third, Tigers second baseman Jonathan Schoop picked up a bloop single from Newman in shallow center field, slipped, regathered, and then fired a seed to home plate to cut down Moran who was trying to score from second base.
There is no way that should have happened. With two outs, Moran was running on contact. But, the combination of slow runner and cannon arm – advantage thrower.
“That was outstanding,” said Hill, who had a bird’s-eye view of the play. “Definitely a highlight we can take away from this one. Just a heads-up play. The guy is super, super smart out there on the field.”
It was the second runner the Tigers cut down at the plate. In the second inning, trailing 1-0, manager AJ Hinch pulled his infield in with catcher Michael Perez at third with one out and Ke’Bryan Hayes batting. Hayes hit a ground ball just to the left of Candelario, who picked it and threw out Perez easily.
Peralta grinded through four innings against a left-handed dominant Pirates lineup. He gave up six hits and three walks but kept the damage to a run. He walked two to load the bases in the fourth, in front of the most dangerous hitter, Reynolds.
But Peralta fed him four straight split-change-ups, getting him to swing and miss at three of them. He got seven whiffs on 13 swings at the split.
“He worked through a lot of trouble but he was able to salvage his outing by making pitches with guys on base,” Hinch said. “It’s weird to say he had an off night when he only gave up a run, but it didn’t take him deep into the game and it didn’t look like he was very sharp.”