Detroit — The Tigers and Pirates played a baseball game here Sunday very befitting the weather – brisk.
The 13-inning marathon on Opening Day took five and a half hours to play. This one took two and a half hours. And, as you might expect with 36-degree temperatures at first pitch, the pitchers had the upper hand.
“I’ve seen it go all kinds of ways,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said after the Tigers lost their second straight game to start the season, 1-0 to the Pirates. “I’ve seen where there’s been a hit parade in this kind of weather, too. But today it was just two really good pitchers who had their stuff.”
The smallest crowd at Comerica Park since May 2006 (14,858) saw Pirates right-hander Trevor Williams pitch six no-hit innings, outdueling the Tigers’ Michael Fulmer, who pitched eight strong innings.
“He was changing speeds, changing locations, he was fading balls, cutting balls – just keeping us off-balance,” said Tigers catcher John Hicks. “He threw it well. He was kind of effectively wild. I think he threw as many balls as he did strikes.
“He’d throw a couple of balls and then, boom, he was in the zone.”
Williams threw 43 balls and 42 strikes – walking five. Which is why Pirates manager Clint Hurdle pulled him after six innings, despite the no-hitter.
“It was tough to come out with a no-hitter, but I was playing Russian Roulette all day with the walks, so I totally understand,” said Williams, who pitched seven scoreless, one-hit innings against the Tigers last August. “It was 1-0 when I left and 1-0 when we finished, so it worked out.”
Three of the five walks were erased in double plays. The Tigers made hard contact twice – a lineout by Mikie Mahtook at 105-mph exit velocity and a long fly out by Dixon Machado.
“His ball was moving all over the place,” Gardenhire said. “He was throwing his breaking ball when he was behind in the count. He mixed his pitches really well. When you thought you were going to get a good whack at it, he ran it in on your hands.
“He pitched effectively, inside and out. He was carving us up inside and out.”
The Tigers broke up the no-hitter with one out in the seventh against reliever Michael Feliz. Nick Castellanos doubled into the corner in left field. But that’s as far as he got.
They managed one other hit – a two-out single by Machado in the eighth off reliever George Kontos. Kontos walked Leonys Martin, but with two outs, got Jeimer Candelario to ground out to second base.
It was only the fifth at-bat with a runner in scoring position. And there would be no more.
Pirates closer Felipe Rivero, throwing 98-mph bullets offset by 82-mph breaking balls, went through the heart of the Tigers’ order in the ninth – Miguel Cabrera (strikeout swinging), Castellanos (strikeout swinging) and Victor Martinez (strikeout swinging).
He has some swagger about him, too. Asked about striking out Cabrera, Rivero said, “I was behind in the count, so he knew I was going to be throwing fastballs. He just couldn't catch up with them.”
Fulmer probably deserved a better fate. Wearing only a short-sleeved jersey in the chill, he needed only 90 pitches to complete eighth innings. He allowed four hits, only one that did damage.
“He gave us a great opportunity,” Gardenhire said. “We just weren’t able to do anything offensively. He kept the game at 1-0, and all it would take was one big hit to change the game, but we couldn’t get the one big hit.”
The lone run came in the first inning. After walking leadoff hitter Adam Frazier (disputing two of the pitches that were called balls), Fulmer left a sinker too far over the plate and Gregory Polanco, who hit the game-winning home run in the opener, slapped an RBI double into the corner in right field.
“I thought my command was good all game,” Fulmer said. “The umpire (Lance Barrett) stuck to his guns, allowing basically nothing even a little off the plate and you kind of had to adjust to that.
“But I am happy with how everything felt. But, back at it again with the walks. They will always get you.”
Fulmer only allowed three more Pirates to get into scoring position after the first. He only struck out three, but strikeouts wasn’t the goal.
“This was probably the coldest day I pitched in my big-league career and I handled it better than I expected,” he said. “You know if you give up a run in the first inning you’ve got to put up zeros the rest of the time.
“I wasn’t looking for punch-outs. I was looking to save pitches and give our bullpen a break after the long first game of the year.”
This was the first game of a doubleheader Sunday, the second a make-up of the game that was postponed Saturday. It is the earliest date in MLB history that a doubleheader has been played.