Live Tigers blog: Verlander chased in defeat

Bruce Mason
The Detroit News

Tigers ace Justin Verlander brought a well-rested arm and 25-3 interleague mark into today’s affair, but he yielded 10 hits and seven earned runs in 4 1/3 innings as the Pirates won 7-4 at Comerica Park.

Verlander gave up five doubles in a vastly different performance that last week’s season opener in Miami, when he did not yield a hit until his 67th pitch.

On Monday, Verlander needed 37 pitches to leave the second inning and finished with 111 pitches.

Six Pirates recorded multiple hits in a 17-hit attack to help left-hander Jonathon Niese, who allowed three earned runs in six innings.

Nick Castellanos and J.D. Martinez homered for the Tigers (3-2), who have lost two straight.

Melancon enters

The Tigers trail 7-4 and are down to their final at-bat. And it won’t be easy: They have to face Pirates closer Mark Melancon, who had 51 saves last year to lead the Majors.

In the top of the ninth, Starling Marte (2-for-5) and Francisco Cervelli (3-for-4) delivered consecutive two-out singles, but Tigers reliever Kyle Ryan ended the ninth without giving up a run.

Bullpen dominance

The Pirates continue their bullpen dominance and lead 7-4 in the top of the ninth.

Lefty Tony Watson, who has a MLB-best 1.58 ERA since the 2013 All-Star break, entered the game in the eighth and threw a scoreless inning. Tigers' slugger Miguel Cabrera drew a two-out walk, but Victor Martinez popped out.

Watson has not relinquished a run through 4 1/3 innings this year.

Pittsburgh’s bullpen entered Monday with a 1.86 ERA with opponents hitting .167.

Lowe throws scoreless inning

Tigers right-handed reliever Mark Lowe enters the game in the top of the eighth and throws a scoreless inning. The Pirates lead 7-4 entering the bottom of the eighth.

Five Pirates have multiple hits, led by Gregory Polanco (3-for-4), who reached base safely for the seventh straight game.

Tigers ace Justin Verlander was pulled after 4 1/3 innings. He gave up seven earned runs on 10 hits on 111 pitches.

On Sunday, the Pirates went 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position in a loss at Cincinnati. Today, they are 6-for-14.

Niese exits

Pittsburgh reliever Neftali Feliz enters the game in the bottom of the seventh and pitches a scoreless inning. The Pirates lead 7-4 entering the top of the eighth.

Pirates left-handed starter Jonathon Niese finished the day with three earned runs in six innings. He struck out five and walked one on five hits. He gave up two solo homers (J.D. Martinez, Nick Castellanos).

Another scoreless inning for Kensing

Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler turned a highlight-reel double play to help right-handed reliever Logan Kensing, who produces another scoreless inning. The Pirates lead 7-4 in the seventh.

Kensing has yielded one earned run in 4 2/3 innings this year.

Tigers strike twice, still trail

The Tigers chip away at the deficit and score twice in the sixth inning. The Pirates lead 7-4.

Victor Martinez delivered a broken-bat, RBI single off left-hander Jonathon Niese. Earlier, Miguel Cabrera drilled a pitch off the outstretched arm of Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer that allowed Jose Iglesias to score the first run of the inning. The play was ruled an error.

Iglesias and J.D. Martinez have hit safely in all five games.

The inning extended briefly when Tigers manager Brad Ausmus challenged a call on the field.

Here’s what happened: Pirates third baseman Sean Rodriguez missed a tag on Cabrera, who was running between second and third base. Cabrera was originally ruled out to end the inning. But the call was overturned after review, giving the Tigers another chance.

Nick Castellanos came to the plate with runners on corners, but he flew out on his first pitch to end the threat.

Miguel Cabrera hits into a double play to end the first inning Monday.

Finally: A scoreless inning

After scoring a run in each of the opening five innings, the Pirates were held off the scoreboard in the sixth.

Tigers right-handed reliever Logan Kensing escaped trouble as the Pirates lead 7-2 in the sixth inning.

The Pirates’ John Jaso and Andrew McCutchen started the inning with back-to-back singles, but Kensing induced a double play ball from Matt Joyce, a former Tiger. Starling Marte flew out to end the mild threat.

Kensing has yielded one earned run in 3 2/3 innings this season. He entered in the top of the sixth along with catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Starting catcher James McCann appeared to roll his ankle on the first-base bag while running out a close play in the fifth inning.

J.D. Martinez blasts homer

Tigers right fielder J.D. Martinez blasted a solo home run on the first pitch in the bottom of the fifth to trim the Pirates’ lead to 7-2.

Both of the Tigers’ runs today off left-handed starter Jonathon Niese have been solo homers. Nick Castellanos went deep in the second inning.

Martinez had 38 homers last season.

The Pirates have scored in each inning and chased Justin Verlander, who lasted 4 1/3 innings, giving up seven earned runs on 10 hits.

Tigers catcher James McCann appeared to roll his ankle on the first-base bag during a fifth-inning groundout. He walked off the field under his own power.

Verlander pulled in fifth

After a solid opener last week in Miami, Tigers ace Justin Verlander could not get through five innings during his home debut. The Pirates lead 7-1 in the bottom of the fifth.

Verlander yielded his fifth double of the day in the fifth inning, this time courtesy of Starling Marte. The Pirates recorded a double in each inning today.

Right-hander Drew VerHagen was inserted with runners on the corners and one out.

And the trouble continued.

Gregory Polanco doubled to increase the lead to 6-1, Josh Harrison walked to load the bases, then No. 9 hitter Sean Rodriguez blooped a single to shallow center field to make it 7-1.

Verlander's final stat line: 4 1/3 innings, seven earned runs, 10 hits (five doubles), two strikeouts, two walks.

Tigers ground into another double play

Pirates lefty Jonathon Niese has four strikeouts as Pittsburgh leads 5-1 after four innings.

Justin Upton had a leadoff single to start the fourth, but Victor Martinez grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Miguel Cabrera struck out swinging on a 91 mph fastball.

Niese has given up two hits. His lone blemish was a solo home run off the bat of Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos.

Verlander yields fourth double

The struggles continue for Justin Verlander, who relinquishes another run in the top of the fourth inning as the Pirates lead 5-1. This time, it was John Jaso who delivered a sacrifice fly to conclude a 10-pitch at-bat.

Pirates second baseman Josh Harrison — a nemesis in the past for Verlander — doubled to lead off the fourth inning. That’s the fourth double given up by Verlander today.

Sean Rodriguez followed with a walk, his second of the day.Then Jordy Mercer delivered a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners to second and third with one out, setting the table for Jaso.

Pirates hitters continue to battle, forcing long at-bats against Verlander, who has thrown 91 pitches. He has given up eight hits. Seven Pirates came to the plate in a 37-pitch second inning.

Flashback to 2012: Harrison is the guy who broke up Verlander’s no-hit bid with one out in the ninth inning at Comerica Park. Verlander finished with a one-hitter to go along with a complete-game shutout that featured 12 strikeouts.

Niese cruises in third

Pirates left-hander Jonathon Niese sat down the Tigers with a 1-2-3 third inning. Tyler Collins struck out looking, Jose Iglesias grounded out and Ian Kinsler struck out swinging. 

The Pirates lead 4-1 in the top of the fourth.

Pirates add another run in third

Pittsburgh catcher Francisco Cervelli delivered a sacrifice fly to score former Tiger Matt Joyce and increase the Pirates’ lead to 4-1 in the top of the third.

Joyce doubled to continue his success against Justin Verlander. Joyce is 2 for 2 against Verlander today, and now 8 for 19 in his career.

Tigers catcher James McCann threw out his second runner of the day to end the inning.

Verlander has given up seven hits (three doubles) on 69 pitches through three innings. He has two strikeouts versus one walk.

Castellanos puts Tigers on board

Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos hit a two-out, solo home run off Jonathon Niese to trim the Pirates’ lead to 3-1 after two innings.

Victor Martinez grounded out, and J.D. Martinez flew out to start the inning.

Verlander struggles in second

Tigers ace Justin Verlander is struggling in his second start of the season. He has yielded five hits and three runs through two innings, as the Pirates lead 3-0.

Verlander has thrown 55 pitches. In Miami, he did not give up a hit until his 67th pitch in the sixth inning.

Here’s how the second inning unfolded: Pirates right fielder Gregory Polanco delivered a one-out double down the right-field chalk. That’s the second double yielded in as many innings by Verlander.

Josh Harrison followed with an infield single to advance Polanco, who was running on contact. Sean Rodriguez drew a walk on a nine-pitch at-bat.

Jordy Mercer, the Pirates’ No. 9 hitter, had another long at-bat, and delivered a two-RBI single that forced Verlander to duck from the mound.

Verlander struck out Francisco Cervelli to start the inning, then trouble ensued.

Niese pitches scoreless inning

Pirates left-hander Jonathon Niese induced an inning-ending double play from the bat of Miguel Cabrera. The Pirates lead 1-0 after the first inning.

Tigers' offseason acquisition Justin Upton struck out for the ninth time this year, but reached first on a passed ball.

Ian Kinsler flew out to open the inning.

Verlander yields run

It took 67 pitches for Tigers ace Justin Verlander to yield a hit in last week’s opener at Miami.

Today, he relinquished a run in the first inning, courtesy of former Tiger Matt Joyce, whose RBI single scored John Jaso.

The Tigers’ outfield shift didn’t fool Jaso, the Pirates’ leadoff hitter who sent a 2-1 pitch into left field for a double. Jaso, who entered hitting .125 lifetime against Verlander, then advanced to third on Andrew McCutchen’s fly out.

Next was Joyce, who faced an infield that was drawn-in but managed to punch an RBI single to left field, giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead. Joyce is now 7 for 18 against Verlander in his career.

The Tigers ended the inning with a double play: Verlander struck out Starling Marte, and catcher James McCann threw out Joyce at second base.

Tigers set to start 

The Tigers, after getting rained out Sunday night against the Yankees, get back to action Monday with a 1:10 p.m. start against the Pirates at Comerica Park.

The Tigers (3-1) will send Justin Verlander against left-hander Jonathon Niese of the Pirates (4-2).

Monday’s game is the first of four straight this week against the Pirates, with games Wednesday and Thursday shifting to PNC Park.

Shane Greene was supposed to start Monday’s game, but Sunday night’s rainout pushed back his first start of the season to Wednesday.

New Tigers left fielder Justin Upton is hitting .346 (9-for-26) in his career against Niese.

Tyler Collins starts in center field for the Tigers Monday as Anthony Gose gets an off-day.

The Tigers, who swept the Marlins 2-0 to start the season, are now 116-72 (.617) in interleague play since 2006, the second-best record in MLB. The Red Sox are No. 1 at 120-66 (.645).

TIGERS LINEUP

1. Ian Kinsler, 2B

2. Justin Upton, LF

3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B

4. Victor Martinez, DH

5. J.D. Martinez, RF

6. Nick Castellanos, 3B

7. James McCann, C

8. Tyler Collins, CF

9. Jose Iglesias, SS

Justin Verlander, RHP

PIRATES LINEUP

1. John Jaso, 1B

2. Andrew McCutchen, CF

3. Matt Joyce, DH

4. Starling Marte, LF

5. Francisco Cervelli, C

6. Gregory Polanco, RF

7. Josh Harrison, 2B

8. Sean Rodriguez, 3B

9. Jordy Mercer, SS

Jonathon Niese, LHP

TIGERS VS. PIRATES

When: Monday, 1:10 p.m.

Where: Comerica Park

TV / radio: FSD, MLB / 97.1 FM

Starting pitchers: Justin Verlander, Tigers (0-0, 4.50 ERA) vs. Jonathon Niese (0-0, 7.20 ERA)