Pittsburgh hitters woke up in the opener of a home-and-home set against the Detroit Tigers, and next they draw a pitcher who hasn't enjoyed a win against them in quite some time.
Back on track following a disappointing series loss, the Pirates hope to hang another crooked number on Anibal Sanchez and the Tigers on Tuesday at Comerica Park.
Pittsburgh (5-2) tallied 19 hits but only scored twice while stranding 23 baserunners in consecutive losses to close a three-game set in Cincinnati over the weekend.
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After a young Reds pitching staff held down the Pirates, a former Cy Young Award winner couldn't figure them out on Monday. Pittsburgh piled up 10 of its 17 hits off Justin Verlander, who was yanked after 4 1-3 innings and charged with seven runs.
Gregory Polanco and Francisco Cervelli tallied three hits while John Jaso, Matt Joyce, Starling Marte and Josh Harrison added two apiece. Polanco had two of the Pirates' six doubles, their most since hitting seven on June 12, 2014.
The bottom five batters in the lineup combined to go 10 for 17 with three extra-base hits.
''When you are getting that kind of production from the bottom of your order, any major-league team is going to do well,'' manager Clint Hurdle said. ''They were squaring up all balls and fouling off a lot of good pitches – everyone was – and that's going to play well.''
The Tigers (3-2), meanwhile, finished with a season-low six hits. J.D. Martinez and Nick Castellanos went deep, but Ian Kinsler finished without a knock for the first time and the Nos. 7-9 spots combined to go 1 for 10.
It was Pittsburgh's fourth straight win in this series, each coming in Detroit to follow a 4-11 stretch there. The teams play in Pittsburgh on Wednesday and Thursday.
Sanchez has his own personal four-game skid against the Pirates, the first two coming while with Miami in 2012 and the final two with the Tigers in Pittsburgh. The 32-year-old right-hander did strike out a combined 31 batters and pitched into the seventh inning in each meeting, though he finished the stretch with a 5.33 ERA after serving up six home runs.
Joyce and Harrison are the only two current Pirate hitters with homers against the 11-year veteran. Andrew McCutchen (4 for 16, seven strikeouts), Michael Morse (4 for 18, eight strikeouts), Marte (1 for 7, three strikeouts) and Jaso (1 for 16) have struggled in the matchup.
Also, Sanchez opened the season well by playing a hand in ending Jose Fernandez's winning streak in Miami last Wednesday. Sanchez allowed two runs and four hits in five innings against his former team in a 7-3 win over the Marlins, handing Fernandez his first blemish in 27 home starts.
His next opponent picked up his first win as a starter in nearly two years last week.
Juan Nicasio's debut with the Pirates was nearly flawless as he tossed six two-hit innings while allowing just a solo home run in Wednesday's 5-1 win over St. Louis. The right-hander struck out seven without a walk in just his second start since June 2014.
Nicasio signed a $3 million, one-year contract in December after posting a 3.86 ERA in 52 relief appearances and one start with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2015. He didn't give up a run and only surrendered 10 hits in 15 innings while striking out 24 this spring, earning a spot in the Pirates' rotation.
''I'm just coming to the field and doing everything I can to help my team win,'' Nicasio said. ''I'm just trying to take it batter-by-batter, pitch-by-pitch, trying to get each hitter out.”