The Pittsburgh Pirates already had a four-run lead over an ailing Justin Verlander when Travis Snider threw out a runner at the plate in the second for an inning-ending double play.
"It very well could’ve been one of those things you talk about as a momentum-changer," manager Clint Hurdle said.
Snider not only saved runs, he created them.
Snider hit a pair of home runs and drove in four, Starling Marte added three RBI and the Pirates coasted to an 11-6 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Monday night.
Gregory Polanco also threw out a runner at the plate, when Rajai Davis tried to score from second on Miguel Cabrera’s single in the eighth. Even with a five-run lead at the time, the game could’ve become much closer.
"They left as many men on base as we did," Hurdle said. "They were a swing of the bat from being right back in the game three times tonight."
Verlander (10-11) gave up five runs on four hits and walked two before he was removed after pitching one inning with right shoulder soreness.
"Just didn’t feel great," Verlander said, "and disappointing on a night that the team really needed me."
The loss, coupled with Kansas City’s 3-2 win over Oakland, dropped the Tigers a half-game behind the now-first-place Royals in the American League Central Division.
Pittsburgh loaded the bases against Verlander with one out in the first inning, and Marte cleared them with a triple down the left-field line. Snider drove Marte home when his grounder to first took an odd hop, and Victor Martinez couldn’t glove it.
Verlander threw 40 pitches and bunted in the second before he was removed. He is scheduled to undergo an MRI in Detroit on Tuesday.
"I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little nervous," Verlander said. "I’ve never been through this before."
Verlander added there was no sharp pain in his shoulder, but manager Brad Ausmus removed him from the game to risk any further injury.
Snider knocked in two more in the eighth inning off Phil Coke with his eighth homer, a two-run, opposite-field shot.
Martin hit his sixth home run of the year in the sixth inning, and Ike Davis followed with his eighth.
Snider was 3 for 5 and scored three runs.
"Just another day," Snider said. "For me, it’s nice to contribute offensively, and defensively, and help this team win."
Detroit scored three runs in the sixth to get within 8-4 and knock Pittsburgh starter Jeff Locke out of the game.
Cabrera, Martinez and Torii Hunter started the inning with consecutive hits, and Cabrera scored on Hunter’s double. Alex Avila drove Martinez home with a single, and Hunter scored when Don Kelly hit into a fielder’s choice.
Locke (4-3) was responsible for four runs, eight hits and four walks in five-plus innings.