PITTSBURGH — Zack Short stranded too many runners on the bases in Sunday’s loss to the Miami Marlins. Just three days later, the Detroit Tigers‘ utility player didn’t miss out on his opportunities against the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Short, who entered Wednesday with 23 RBIs in 70 games, tacked on three more in his 71st game to help the Tigers beat the Pirates, 6-3, in Wednesday’s finale of the two-game series at PNC Park.
The Tigers (48-60) — having lost eight of 12 games since July 21 and 10 of 19 games since the All-Star break — split the series after losing Tuesday’s opener.
“Coming off of yesterday, it was a long, weird day in general,” Short said of Tuesday’s trade deadline. “To not let that linger and then come back on short rest, a 12:30 (p.m.) game, it was good.”
Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, who invoked his limited no-trade clause to block a trade to the Los Angeles Dodgers before Tuesday’s 6 p.m. trade deadline, tossed six innings of two-run ball for the Tigers.
He allowed seven hits and one walk with five strikeouts.
“The only thing I was able to control was going out there, so I made the start with the Tigers,” Rodriguez said, “which means I’m still here, and I’m going to be here for a long time.”
But Short stole the show with his performance on offense in the third and sixth innings.
In the three-run fourth inning, Javier Báez ripped an RBI single to left field and put the Tigers back in front, 2-1, before Nick Maton dropped down a sacrifice bunt to advance two runners into scoring position.
Short, a right-handed hitter, replaced Akil Baddoo, a left-handed hitter, as a pinch-hitter against left-handed reliever Ryan Borucki. The pinch-hit decision paid off, as Short sent Borucki’s two-strike sinker for a single into left field, plating two runners for a 4-1 lead.
“Big swing,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “Really, it was (Kerry) Carpenter leading off with a good walk. We had a lot of good at-bats, and we needed all of them. There’s a lot to like with how we separated ourselves. We needed it with the way they put stress on us at the end.”
After pinch-hitting for Baddoo, Short stayed in the game at third (and Zach McKinstry shifted from third to left field). In the fifth inning, Short drove in Matt Vierling with a two-out double off righty reliever Dauri Moreta for a 5-2 advantage.
Short finished 2-for-3 with three RBIs.
“It’s crazy how it happens in the fourth inning,” Short said. “That’s what (Hinch) has been doing all year. He always says we can win the game early in the game with pinch hitters or late, so you have to be ready from the get-go. … We were on board from the beginning.”
In the eighth inning, Jake Rogers — a right-handed hitter — replaced Carpenter to face left-handed reliever Jose Hernandez.
But the Pirates countered the Tigers’ substitution by switching pitchers. Right-handed reliever Yerry De Los Santos replaced Hernandez, which would have been an easier assignment for the lefty Carpenter.
Rogers, who performs better against lefty pitchers, wasn’t fazed. He launched the first pinch-hit home run of his career and the 13th home run of his 2023 campaign, sending a fifth-pitch slider 406 feet to left-center for a 6-2 lead.
“We are trying our best to line everybody up in the best situations imaginable,” Hinch said. “We’re not going to be perfect with what we do. The players aren’t going to be perfect with the results. But when it happens, it shows why we’re trying to be disciplined with what we’re trying to do with them.”
Two relievers posted followed Rodriguez’s steady performance by posting zeros on the scoreboard: Jose Cisnero in the seventh inning and Jason Foley in the eighth inning. But Alex Lange faltered in the ninth inning.
Lange surrendered one hit and three walks — including a bases-loaded, four-pitch walk — while recording two outs. A bases-loaded walk to rookie Henry Davis, the No. 1 overall pick in 2021, trimmed the Tigers’ lead to 6-3.
Tyler Holton, a left-handed reliever who had a 1.99 ERA in 36 games entering Wednesday’s appearance, replaced Lange with two outs and the bases loaded. He struck out Ke’Bryan Hayes looking with a full-count changeup above the strike zone to end the game.
Rodriguez, who can exercise the opt-out clause in his contract after the 2023 World Series to become a free agent, threw 93 pitches — and 62 of those pitches for strikes — in his six-inning performance.
He seemed unfazed by the drama of Tuesday’s trade deadline.
“What happened out of the lines is something I can’t control,” Rodriguez said. “The only thing I can control is to go out there and pitch. I prepared myself for the start today and tried to do my best.”
After the Pirates scored in the first inning, Rodriguez benefitted from a textbook relay from his defense in the second inning to keep the game tied at one run apiece. On Conner Joe’s double, Baddoo fielded the line drive to perfection in the left-field corner, spun to get himself into throwing position and tossed the ball to the cutoff man — shortstop Báez — to start the play.
Báez fired a bullet to catcher Eric Haase, and Jason Delay was out by a mile to end the second inning.
“Baddoo cutting the ball off is the first thing that has to happen,” Hinch said. “It’s a play that we needed to execute. They challenged us with two outs, and it’s an aggressive send, but if you execute, we like our chances there. It all starts with Akil getting off the ball, taking the right route, securing the ball and making sure he gets a good throw off.”
The Pirates cut the Tigers’ lead to 4-2 in the fifth inning with Andrew McCutchen’s single to right field. There were runners on the corners and two outs for Davis, but he popped out in the infield.
Rodriguez retired all three batters he faced in his sixth and final inning.
“The first inning, I went a little weird,” Rodriguez said. “I felt too powerful with all of my pitches, but as the game was going on, I was getting better and making the adjustments. I got the right results out of it.”
He used 36 four-seam fastballs (39%), 19 cutters (20%), 18 changeups (19%), 11 sinkers (12%) and nine sliders (10%). He generated 11 whiffs with three fastballs, two cutters, three changeups, one sinker and two sliders.
Rodriguez, 31, has a 2.96 ERA in 16 starts this season.
“It’s always important to go out there and pitch really good,” Rodriguez said. “It’s been eight days without pitching, so I feel really good with the outing body-wise and feel really good with location. The pitches were right where I wanted.”
Greene goes first
Riley Greene put the Tigers ahead, 1-0, in the first inning with a solo home run to right-center off right-hander Osvaldo Bido.
He hit a second-pitch changeup with a 110.3 mph exit velocity.
Bido allowed four runs on three hits and one walk with three strikeouts in three-plus innings, throwing 36 of 59 pitches for strikes. Greene, meanwhile, has nine home runs in 71 games this season.