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Live Tigers blog: Detroit wins third straight

Bruce Mason
The Detroit News

Third baseman Nick Castellanos went 3-for-4 with a double, two-run homer and four RBIs to lift the Tigers to a 7-4 victory against the Pirates on Thursday at PNC Park.

The Tigers won three of four games in a home-and-home series with Pittsburgh.

Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann (2-0) earned the win with six shutout innings. He has not allowed a run in 13 innings this year.

J.D. Martinez (sacrifice fly), Tyler Collins (double) and Bobby Wilson had an RBI apiece for the Tigers, whose road trip continues Friday in Houston.

Francisco Rodriguez closed the game with a scoreless ninth inning.

Zimmermann struck out four, walked two and gave up six hits. Most notably: He escaped two bases-loaded jams.

K-Rod in the game

Detroit closer Francisco Rodriguez takes the mound with a three-run lead (7-4). It's the bottom of the ninth at PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

In 3.1 innings this year, K-Rod has allowed five hits. But he has appeared in back-to-back games without yielding a run.

The Pirates' Gregory Polanco led off the ninth inning and had another chance when his foul pop-up was dropped by third baseman Andrew Romine (who replaced Nick Castellanos). But Rodriguez got Polanco to ground out.

Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer grounded out to end the game.

Top 9: Tigers threaten, but do not score

Andrew Romine singled and Mike Aviles was hit by a pitch from Pirates reliever Arquimedes Caminero. Then Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler grounded out to advance the runners to second and third with two outs, but Justin Upton struck out swinging to end the inning.

The Tigers lead 7-4 entering the bottom of the ninth.

The Pirates have stranded 12 runners today.

K-Rod warming up

The Tigers bat in the top of the ninth with a 7-4 lead, and closer Francisco Rodriguez is warming up in the Detroit bullpen.

Bottom 8: Pirates get a run

David Freese delivers a two-out, RBI double off Tigers reliever Mark Lowe to trim the lead to 7-4.

The Tigers delivered a defensive gem in the inning: Ian Kinsler’s relay throw to home plate found the glove of catcher Bobby Wilson, who tagged John Jaso for the second out of the inning. Andrew McCutchen doubled on the play.

Castellanos belts 2-run homer

It's been quite a day for Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos, who blasted a two-run homer to extend the Tigers lead to 7-3 in the eighth inning.

And it came off perhaps the best reliever in the game in the likes of Pirates lefty Tony Watson.

Castellanos belted a first-pitch, 86-mph changeup to the left-field seats. Earlier, he hit a two-run double in the fourth inning. He is 3-of-4 today with four RBIs.

Watson entered today with the best ERA in the majors (1.57) since the 2013 All-Star break. He held opponents to 2-of-13 hitting until Ian Kinsler singled to start the inning. Kinsler stole second, then scored on a sacrifice fly by J.D. Martinez.

Castellanos is now 5-of-10 (five RBIs) this season on his first pitch.

Kinsler adds run

Pirates left-hander Tony Watson entered the game to face Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler, who had a leadoff single. Kinsler then stole second.

From there, Justin Upton flew out to right field, and Kinsler advanced to third.

Miguel Cabrera was intentionally walked.

J.D. Martinez hit a sacrifice fly to score Kinsler and make it 5-3.

Bottom 7: Pirates get three 

Tigers right-hander Drew VerHagen yields three runs — two on infield singles — as the Detroit lead has been trimmed to 4-3 after seven innings.

VerHagen entered the game in relief for Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann, who threw six scoreless innings.

VerHagen gave up five hits and a walk in 2/3 of an inning.

Here's how it happened: The Pirates placed two runners on base with no outs. John Jaso led off the inning with a double to right-center field, then Andrew McCutchen walked.

VerHagen then induced a double-play ball from the Pirates' David Freese.

But Starling Marte hit an RBI infield single to give Pittsburgh its first run of the day. Marte hit softly to Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos, who had to make a tough play and chose to throw home. Jaso scored on the play, and Marte was safe at first. The play was ruled a hit.

From there, Gregory Polanco singled to place runners on the corners with two outs.

Josh Harrison then had an RBI infield single that went off the glove of VerHagen and stayed near the mound. That made it 4-2.

Jordy Mercer followed with a sharply hit, RBI single to left field to make it 4-3. That's when VerHagen was pulled for right-hander Mark Lowe, who ended the inning by getting Chris Stewart to ground out.

Zimmermann, who threw six scoreless innings, extended his shutout streak on the season to 13 innings. He threw seven shutout innings against the Yankees in his Tigers debut last week at Comerica Park.

Zimmermann has now gone 125 straight starts without walking two straight batters. (That’s 784 innings).

Collins, Wilson extend lead

Left-handed hitting Tyler Collins blasts an RBI double down the left-field chalk, and Bobby Wilson followed with a sacrifice fly for a 4-0 Tigers lead in the seventh inning.

Both hits came off Pirates reliever Rob Scahill, who was called up today from Triple-A Indianapolis.

J.D. Martinez walked to start the inning, and Nick Castellanos followed with a sharp single on the first pitch he saw. (Castellanos is 4 for 9 with three RBIs on his first pitch this season.)

Scahill relieved Pirates starter Gerrit Cole, who gave up two earned runs in six innings. He struck out five and walked one.

Bottom 6: Zimmermann in control

That’s 13 straight scoreless innings for Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann, who gave up a leadoff single to Josh Harrison, but stranded the ninth Pirates runner in scoring position today.

It’s 2-0 Tigers after six innings. Nick Castellanos’ two-RBI double in the fourth inning accounts for the scoring.

Harrison stole second with one out in the sixth, but Chris Stewart flew out to the front edge of the left-field warning track for the second out of the inning.

Pirates starting pitcher Gerrit Cole was scheduled to bat with two outs, but he was pulled for pinch hitter Matt Joyce, a former Tiger, who grounded out to end the inning.

Zimmermann froze Jordy Mercy for a strikeout on an 82-mph curveball. He has four strikeouts versus two walks on 107 pitches.

Zimmermann threw seven shutout innings in his first start last week against the Yankees at Comerica Park.

Scary moment, but Cole OK

Tigers pitcher Jordan Zimmermann led off the sixth inning with a line-drive single. And it caused some mild damage as it glanced off the head of Pirates starter Gerrit Cole, who fell backward off the mound, losing his hat.

Pirates trainers visited Cole, who stayed in the game. He then induced a double-play ball from Ian Kinsler.

From there, Justin Upton smacked a two-out single, but Miguel Cabrera flew out to end the inning.

The Tigers lead 2-0 entering the bottom of the sixth.

Zimmermann escapes, again

For the second time today, Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann escapes a bases-loaded jam. His scoreless innings streak reaches 12.

The Tigers lead 2-0 after five innings.

It’s typically a bad sign when the pitcher gets on base. Pirates starter Gerrit Cole singled off Zimmermann to start the fifth, and from there, John Jaso singled off the glove of shortstop Andrew Romine.

David Freese, who was the 2011 World Series MVP in St. Louis, singled to load the bases.

But Zimmermann got back-to-back pop outs to end the threat from Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco, who slammed his bat in frustration.

Polanco jumped ahead in the count, 3-0, but could not deliver.

Zimmermann has thrown 91 pitches through five innings. He has stranded eight base runners.

Zimmermann has three strikeouts versus two walks and yielded five hits, thus far.

Bottom 5: Pirates load bases

Three Pirates singles off Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann (11 straight scoreless innings) loads the bases with one out.

The Tigers lead 2-0 in the top of the fifth.

Top 5: Nothing doing

Pirates starter Gerrit Cole earns a 1-2-3 inning to quiet the Tigers in the fifth.

For the first time since 1950, the Tigers scored four runs in each of their first seven games to open the season, entering today. The 1950 team featured George Kell (.340 batting average, 101 RBIs), who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1983.

Bottom 4: Zimmermann rolls

Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann had a 1-2-3 inning to maintain a 2-0 lead after four innings.

Zimmermann, who threw seven shutout innings in his first start last week against the Yankees, has 11 straight scoreless innings as a Tiger.

He has tossed 75 pitches today. He has given up two hits.

Jordan Zimmermann pitches in the first inning Thursday.

Top 4: Castellanos gives Detroit lead

The Tigers finally get to Pirates starter Gerrit Cole, who helped the cause with a two-base error, and third baseman Nick Castellanos delivered a two-RBI double to give Detroit a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth.

With two outs and a full count, Cole tried to pickoff the Tigers’ Justin Upton at first base — but there was nobody at the bag and the ball rolled into foul territory. Upton advanced all the way to third base, a two-bag error charged to Cole, who didn’t realize that first baseman John Jaso retreated.

From there, J.D. Martinez walked, and then came Castellanos, who hit a first-pitch, 89-mph slider to deep center field, over the head of Andrew McCutchen. That scored Upton and Martinez.

Castellanos, however, got caught in a run down between second and third to end the inning.

Leave it to second baseman Ian Kinsler to be the first Tiger to record a hit today off Cole, who retired nine straight batters to open the game. Cole had four strikeouts through three innings, but Kinsler led off the fourth inning with a bloop single.

Upton grounded into a fielder’s choice, but he beat a throw to first base to avoid a double-play ball. It turned out to be a big factor.

Miguel Cabrera struck out for the second time today in the inning, this time on an 88-mph slider.

Bottom 3: Still scoreless

Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann strands another runner in scoring position. It’s still 0-0 between the Tigers and Pirates in the series finale at PNC Park.

Zimmermann thought he induced an inning-ending grounder to Starling Marte, but the frame continued when shortstop Andrew Romine committed an error. That placed runners on the corners.

Zimmermann, however, got Gregory Polanco to ground out to close the inning.

Polanco was 3-for-5 in the series opener at Detroit (when Justin Verlander started). But he has not had a hit off Tigers’ pitchers in eight at-bats the past three games of the series.

Top 3: Cole in control

Pirates starter Gerrit Cole has retired nine straight Tigers batters to open the game. He has four strikeouts through three innings on 34 pitches.

Tigers catcher Bobby Wilson, who is in his ninth season with his fifth team, flew out to open the third inning. Left-handed hitting Andrew Romine flew out to center field.

Tigers pitcher Jordan Zimmermann, who had his share of at-bats during his National League days in Washington, struck out looking.

It’s 0-0 in the bottom of the third.

Bottom 2: Zimmermann in control

Starter Jordan Zimmermann throws his ninth consecutive scoreless inning to open his Tigers career.

Jordy Mercer grounded out, Chris Stewart popped out, and Gerrit Cole struck out.

It's 0-0 after two innings in Pittsburgh's PNC Park.

Tigers catcher Bobby Wilson took a foul ball off the forearm, which caused the trainers to run onto the field, but he stayed in the game.

Top 2: Tigers go down easy

Pirates starter Gerrit Cole has retired six straight Tigers to open the game. He has three strikeouts. 

In two starts last year against Detroit, Cole 14 strikeouts versus two walks.

It's scoreless in the top of the second.

Pirates load bases

Tigers starter Jordan Zimmermann earned two outs, but then loaded the bases to get into trouble, although he escaped.

The Pirates' David Freese and Starling Marte recorded back-to-back singles, then Zimmermann walked Gregory Polanco. But Zimmermann induced an inning-ending groundout from Josh Harrison.

It's scoreless after the first inning

Cole cruises in 1st

Pirates starter Gerrit Cole earned two strikeouts (Ian Kinsler, Miguel Cabrera) to retire the Tigers in the first inning.

How to watch

The Tigers and Pirates wrap up their four-game, two-city series on Thursday with a 12:35 p.m. start at PHC Park.

Jordan Zimmermann makes his second start of the season for the Tigers. He will be opposed by Pirates right-hander Gerrit Cole in what should be an entertaining showdown on the mound.

On Wednesday night, Shane Greene was sharp in his first start of the season and Jarrod Saltalamacchia hit a grand slam in the Tigers’ 7-3 win over the Pirates. It was the 100th homer of Saltalamacchia’s MLB career.

Bobby Wilson, called up from Toledo when James McCann sprained his ankle earlier this week, will start for the Tigers Thursday. He will bat seventh in the lineup penned by manager Brad Ausmus, who turns 47 Thursday.

Meanwhile, Justin Verlander is working on his slider and curveball in hopes of not repeating the less-than-spectacular results of his last outing. Verlander’s next scheduled start is Saturday at Houston.

Lynn Henning remembers what Tigers radio man Paul Carey meant to baseball fans in Detroit.

TIGERS LINEUP

1. Ian Kinsler, 2B

2. Justin Upton, LF

3. Miguel Cabrera, 1B

4. J.D. Martinez, RF

5. Nick Castellanos, 3B

6. Tyler Collins, CF

7. Bobby Wilson, C

8. Andrew Romine, SS

9. Jordan Zimmermann, P

PIRATES LINEUP

1. John Jaso, 1B

2. Andrew McCutchen, CF

3. David Freese, 3B

4. Starling Marte, LF

5. Gregory Polanco, RF

6. Josh Harrison, 2B

7. Jordy Mercer, SS

8. Chris Stewart, C

9. Gerrit Cole, P

TIGERS VS. PIRATES

When: Thursday, 12:35 p.m.

Where: PNC Park, Pittsburgh

TV / radio: FSD / 97.1 FM

Pitching matchup: Jordan Zimmermann (1-0, 0.00) vs. Gerrit Cole (0-1, 5.79)