This time, errors pay off for Detroit Tigers in 3-2 win over Pittsburgh Pirates in Game 1

Detroit Free Press

Detroit Tigers shortstop Javier Báez put the baseball in play with runners on second and third base and two outs in the fifth inning.

Good things followed, but not because of Báez’s bat.

Pittsburgh Pirates third baseman Ke’Bryan Hayes failed to field the bouncer from Báez cleanly. The ball skipped past him and into left field for an error, allowing two runs to score.

The Tigers beat the Pirates, 3-2, in Game 1 of Wednesday’s doubleheader. Detroit improved to 8-14 before a loss in Game 2.

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In the fifth inning, the Tigers had their best shot at Pittsburgh’s pitching staff. Left-handed starter Dillon Peters, an opener, gave his squad 3⅓ scoreless innings before righty reliever Bryse Wilson replaced him for the next 3⅔ innings.

Facing Wilson, Jeimer Candelario doubled to start the fifth, and Willi Castro reached safely on a fielding error by shortstop Cole Tucker. Then, Akil Baddoo drew a four-pitch walk with one out.

The double from Candelario, his fourth this season, was the Tigers’ second hit of the game and the first since Castro’s single in the second inning. Detroit finished with three runs on three hits and two walks.

“I just want to hit the ball hard,” Candelario said. “I know everything’s going to be fine. Like I always say, if you work hard, a lot of things are going to go your way. When you hit the ball consistently on the barrel, no matter what, you’re going to have success”

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Robbie Grossman produced a sacrifice fly — the Tigers’ lone RBI in Game 1 — to cut the deficit to 2-1. While Candelario scored, Baddoo and Castro tagged up and advanced to second and third base, respectively, with two outs.

Three pitches later, Báez’s dribbler to third base bounced over Hayes’ glove to put the Tigers ahead 3-2.

The Pirates made three errors in Game 1.

Tough luck for Pineda

Right-hander Michael Pineda was charged with two runs on four hits and two walks with four strikeouts in 4⅓ innings. Both runs scored with the 33-year-old in the dugout.

“Michael was good, and he’s been good for us,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “You know what to expect from him. He will generally pound the strike zone, and he’s got multiple pitches. … When Michael is pitching, we feel like we have a chance to win.”

Back-to-back one-out singles from Cole Tucker and Andrew Knapp chased Pineda, with Hinch calling for righty reliever Alex Lange to face Ben Gamel, a left-handed hitter, with runners on the corners.

Gamel smacked a fifth-pitch fastball from Lange into the gap in right-center and turned on his speed to end up on third. Tucker and Knapp scored to give the Pirates 2-0 advantage.

Pineda, in his third start this season, needed 44 pitches to complete the first and second innings. He entered Wednesday’s outing without having allowed a walk in 10 innings. But he walked two batters over the first two innings against the Pirates.

“I tried to locate my fastball away,” Pineda said. “They have a lot of left-handed hitters. I tried to work it away, and I missed a couple fastballs away. That’s why it took me a lot of pitches in the first couple innings, and they had a lot of fouls with two strikes.”

The nine-year MLB veteran, with a 5.3% walk rate for his career, settled in during the third and fourth innings. Still, his efficiency wavered at times, throwing 17 pitches in the third, 14 pitches in the fourth and 10 pitches in his one-out fifth.

Báez helped Pineda’s effort by delivering a pair of defensive gems. In the third inning, he executed a no-look, between-the-legs flip of the ball for a forceout at second. One inning later, he completed a sliding back-handed stop in shallow center field and threw out the runner at first base.

“He’s a good defender,” Hinch said. “That’s Javy. That’s why we signed him. It’s one of many things he brings to a team. You’re never out of a play. There’s just so much that he brings.”

The Tigers’ defense was shifted for both highlight-reel plays.

“It’s great,” Pineda said. “It makes me excited on the mound. I’m trying to attack the hitter all the time, and having a defensive guy like Javy and the other guys we have here makes me really excited.”

For his 85 pitches (52 strikes), Pineda used 51 four-seam fastballs (60%), 20 changeups (24%) and 14 sliders (16%). He recorded eight swings and misses: three fastballs, four changeups and one slider. He also had 17 called strikes, 16 with his fastball.

Pineda averaged 90.3 mph with his fastball.

Bullpen goes to work

Lange escaped the fifth without further damage, and once the Tigers grabbed a one-run lead in the bottom of the inning, Hinch turned to a familiar set of relievers for the final 12 outs.

Right-hander Jacob Barnes pitched a scoreless sixth inning. Left-hander Andrew Chafin (seventh), righty Michael Fulmer (eight) and lefty Gregory Soto (ninth) then also blanked the Pirates over the final three innings to complete the win.

“It’s amazing,” Pineda said. “We have a great bullpen, and they’re doing a good job at holding the game. We’re excited because we have a good bullpen. Hopefully, we can do that again.”

The Tigers boast MLB’s best bullpen ERA  — it opened Wednesday at 1.97 and dropped to 1.87 with the 4⅔ innings against the Pirates in Game  before surrendering five runs in the second game of the day — and Fulmer has fired 23⅓ scoreless innings in a row, dating back to 2021. Chafin, who didn’t join the Tigers until April 26, pitched in a victory for the first time this season.

Soto has four saves in 2022.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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