Unshakable Simon helps Tigers shut out Pirates

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Pittsburgh — The Tigers went into Cleveland over the weekend and hit the cover off the ball in a three-game sweep.

The offense didn't make the trip to Pittsburgh — it scored three runs the last two games — yet, the winning continued.

With another sterling pitching performance, this time from Alfredo Simon, the Tigers took the series finale 1-0 Wednesday, taking two of three from the Pirates and improving to 8-1 on the season.

"The pitching really picked us up this series," second baseman Ian Kinsler said. "We had one bad inning (on Monday) and we were almost able to overcome it. One bad inning in a series defensively is pretty darn good."

Simon one-upped the three-hit shutout effort by Shane Greene Tuesday. In eight innings, Simon allowed just two hits.

"He looks like he's taking a walk in the park when he's pitching," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Like he's playing catch with his son in the backyard. He changes speeds, he's got a couple of different breaking balls, couple of different change-ups, he moves it in and out and he has movement on his fastball.

"He doesn't get rattled. I don't think his heartbeat got over 60 beats a minute."

He did make it look easy. He didn't allow a hit until the fourth. He gave up back-to-back singles to Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker. But that was it.

"I felt really comfortable," Simon said. "When I was behind in the count, I just tried to throw my slider down and away. They swung and hit a lot of ground balls and fly balls."

It might have been a little more involved than that.

"He really kept them off balance," his catcher James McCann said. "He mixed his (pitch) patterns. No guy saw the same pattern in consecutive at-bats the entire night. He had his stuff, no doubt."

It was just the fifth time in 53 career starts that he completed eight innings, and it's the first time he threw eight shutout innings. His previous best, 7-2/3 scoreless innings against the Phillies last May 16.

"He did an amazing job keeping them off-balance," Kinsler said. "He had them guessing for sure. I don't know how many types of change-ups he has, but I saw at least three — he sinks it, cuts it, curves it and he can throw it straight. He's got a lot of different weapons."

He outdueled Francisco Liriano, who only made one mistake and it was a hanging slider on the first pitch to Rajai Davis leading off the sixth.

"He was throwing a lot of strikes and getting ahead of our guys all night," Davis said. "I was going to be ready. I had a good pitch to hit, but I am just glad I was ready."

He hit it out on a line to left field.

"I did reach, but the way it felt off the bat, I was hoping it would go," he said. "It felt good off the bat."

It was right-handed batting Davis' second straight start against a right-handed pitcher. He had two hits and knocked in the winning run off A.J. Burnett Tuesday and provided the margin of victory Wednesday.

The game was delayed for more than 10 minutes in the top of the ninth. On a 3-2 pitch to Miguel Cabrera, who was leading off, the ball caromed off catcher Francisco Cervelli's glove into the face of home plate umpire Jerry Layne.

Layne was cut and dazed and left the game. In the meantime, there was confusion over whether it was ball four or Cabrera fouled it off.

"The tell-tale sign was that the catcher (Francisco Cervelli) chased the ball," Ausmus said. "The usually means he didn't think it was a foul ball."

It wasn't. Cabrera was awarded first base and Bob Davidson replaced Layne behind the plate.

All that was left was for closer Joakim Soria to finish up. Making his fifth appearance in six days he put the Bucs down in order for his fourth save.

This is the first Tigers team since 1914 to post four shutouts in the first nine games.

"Now the offense has to get back into a rhythm and get back to doing what we started out the season doing," Kinsler said. "We need to give our pitchers some support and go from there."

BOX SCORE: Tigers 1, Pirates 0