Detroit Tigers drop second straight against Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-2, despite defensive gem

Detroit Free Press

PITTSBURGH — The baseball dropped into shallow center between a diving Niko Goodrum and a hustling Jonathan Schoop. They were playing up the middle in the Detroit Tigers‘ infield for Tuesday’s clash with the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Schoop has handled second base for most of his career, but the Tigers have showcased his versatility by using him for 94 games at first base this season. Schoop put his instincts and aggressiveness on display. He made a back-handed snag and — despite needing a moment to grip the ball — fired a bullet to catcher Eric Haase.

“He’s got arguably the best arm at second base, when he plays there, of anybody in the big leagues,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said. “I guess (Javier) Baez is playing there with the Mets. He’s going to be right up there with him. It’s a difference-maker when you need it. That was just a baseball player making a baseball play.”

Haase caught the ball and went across his body to tag a sliding Colin Moran at home to conclude the third inning. Saving this run didn’t matter in the end, though, as the Tigers were handed a 3-2 loss in the second of three games at PNC Park.

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The Tigers (65-75) logged seven hits and six walks but went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position. Pittsburgh — recording 11 hits and six walks — has a chance to sweep the series in Wednesday’s finale.

“We didn’t create our own energy today, I know that,” Hinch said about the crowd of 8,329 fans. “It was tough for us to get anything started. The bottom line is you’re not going to win against teams if you put as many base runners on as we did, and the lack of timely hitting. It was a winnable game, but we’re also very fortunate that we were even that close, based on how many opportunities we gave them.”

Right-handed reliever Alex Lange couldn’t get out of his jam in the sixth inning, even after a mound visit from assistant pitching coach Juan Nieves. He recorded the first two outs before a single, double and walk loaded the bases for Ben Gamel.

Gamel drilled a 98 mph fastball for a two-run single and a 3-2 lead.

Tyler Alexander and Jose Cisnero pitched scoreless seventh and eighth innings, respectively. The Tigers threatened in the eighth with a leadoff double from Miguel Cabrera — part of a 3-for-4 performance to reach 2,967 career hits — but Pirates reliever David Bednar easily escaped.

Harold Castro singled off Chris Stratton to start the ninth. It wasn’t enough, though, as Derek Hill, Akil Baddoo and Robbie Grossman were sent down in order.

Peralta inefficient but clutch

The spectacular defensive play also aided starter Wily Peralta, who struggled but grinded through four innings of one-run ball. He dealt with three base runners in the first inning, two in the second, two in the third and three in the fourth — products of six hits, three walks and Haase’s fielding error.

But Peralta only allowed one run.

“My command,” Peralta said. “I was missing (the strike zone) too much and falling behind pretty much everybody. I was a little frustrated there, but I was able to settle in and make better pitches. … I just feel like I was off rhythm a little bit, just trying to fight myself to find the rhythm.”

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His big moment came in the fourth inning, after he recorded two quick outs. The next three batters reached safely: Anthony Alford (walk), Ke’Bryan Hayes (single) and Yoshi Tsutsugo (walk) to force a mound visit from Nieves.

“He told me to make a quality pitch, whatever I decided to go with,” Peralta said. “I decided to go with my split because I was feeling really good, especially in my last two innings, throwing it.”

Facing All-Star Bryan Reynolds, Peralta executed four consecutive well-placed splitters. He struck out Reynolds swinging at a splitter — which generated seven of his 10 swings and misses — in the dirt to strand the bases loaded and complete his outing.

Peralta threw 52 of 84 pitches for strikes.

“It was a lot of pitches and a lot of stress,” Hinch said. “It didn’t look like he was at his best. He was searching for pitches to make. … Kind of weird to say ‘off night’ when he only gave up a run, but it didn’t take him very deep into the game.”

Getting ahead

The Pirates took a one-run lead on Moran’s sacrifice fly in the first inning. Starter Dillon Peters, meanwhile, was perfect through two frames.

But the Tigers made necessary adjustments in the third.

Recording three hits and two walks, they jumped ahead 2-1. The third began with Willi Castro’s full-count walk. He scored to tie the game on a triple from Hill, who ripped a changeup to the right-field corner and sped around the bases.

“The fans weren’t out as much as they were yesterday, but that’s no excuse,” Hill said. “We just got to be better. Point blank. Period. … That guy on the other side gets paid, too. (Peters) pitched a good game, their bullpen came in and did what they had to do. We didn’t execute.”

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Peralta — the Tigers’ starting pitcher — maintained the momentum by working a four-pitch walk.

The 32-year-old spent six years in the National League with the Milwaukee Brewers (2012-17) entered Tuesday hitting .100 (20-for-200) with four doubles, one home run, 11 RBIs, seven walks and 83 strikeouts across nine MLB seasons.

“It felt a little bit weird,” Peralta said. “It’s been a while since I got in the box. At the same time, I’m just having fun. You don’t want to get struck out in your first time at-bat after that many years not facing pitchers.”

After Peralta walked, Grossman singled to score Hill for a 2-1 lead. The Tigers then stranded their runners. They could have tacked on a third run, but Peralta was the runner going from second to third base on Cabrera’s single to the right-field corner. Because he is a 255-pound pitcher, third base coach Ramon Santiago didn’t send him home.

“In that situation, Peralta being on base was a detriment,” Hinch said. “I like that he worked his walk, but it does clog the bases. … There are other aspects of the game that I have in front of that as being the issue tonight.”

The next two batters, Jeimer Candelario and Eric Haase, were retired to end the third. Peters allowed two runs on three hits, three walks and five strikeouts over four innings.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter

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