Tigers-Pirates Preview

Pittsburgh Pirates manager Clint Hurdle was pleased to see his

hitters finally respond after a prolonged slump.

Hurdle’s team might have a difficult time continuing that

resurgence in Friday night’s interleague opener against the Detroit

Tigers’ Brad Penny.

Before its two games in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh (20-23) scored 15

runs and hit .195 with runners in scoring position during a

season-high six-game losing streak. The Pirates broke out of that

funk by scoring 10 runs and were 5 for 18 (.278) in the clutch

while sweeping the Reds.

“Incrementally, we’ve gotten better,” Hurdle said. “We’ve made

some progress in some areas. It’s good to see.

“I do believe it’s closer to them getting in an offensive

consistency that we should be in. I’ll be looking forward to the

day when this thing gets rolling, and it seems to me like it’s

getting closer every day we play.”

The Pirates won three straight one other time this season from

May 7-9. To match that streak, they’ll likely have to find a way to

get hits off the red-hot Penny (4-3, 4.11 ERA).

The Tigers right-hander is 3-0 with a 0.83 ERA in his three

starts this month and scattered five hits over eight innings in

Saturday’s 3-0 win against Kansas City.

“I pitched terribly the first few games (this season),” Penny

said. “It’s nice to get a winning streak going.”

Penny, in his 12th major league season and second in the AL, is

3-0 with a 2.78 ERA in his last six starts against the Pirates but

the most recent one came in an 8-1 win for the Los Angeles Dodgers

in 2008.

Detroit, though, enters this matchup having lost three in a row

following a 10-1 stretch and dropped a pair of one-run games in

Boston.

The Tigers (22-21) got back-to-back home runs from Brennan

Boesch and Miguel Cabrera in the eighth inning to tie Thursday’s

game at Fenway Park, but Al Alburquerque retired only one of the

five batters he faced in the ninth as Detroit lost 4-3.

Detroit has batted .200 and scored five runs during its losing

streak after averaging 6.1 runs and batting .273 over its previous

11 games. With this series at PNC Park, the Tigers will have to try

to end those struggles without the benefit of a designated

hitter.

Victor Martinez, batting .315, or Alex Avila, hitting .283, will

likely have to sit on the bench in each of three games. Normally a

DH, Martinez has played just eight games at catcher this

season.

“It’s a challenge. It’s not easy,” manager Jim Leyland told the

team’s website. “They’re going to both play. Victor is going to

play Sunday for sure because they have a left-handed pitcher.”

Martinez might start at catcher on Friday and face Jeff Karstens

(2-2, 3.62), who is winless in his last four starts despite a

respectable 3.38 ERA.

The right-hander has been given a combined six runs of support

over that stretch. He allowed two runs over five innings Saturday

in Milwaukee but got a single run from his teammates in an 8-2

defeat.

Karstens yielded two runs over seven innings to the Tigers on

June 13 but did not get a decision in a 4-3 defeat, which gave

Detroit a three-game sweep at Comerica Park.

The teams have split their 12 all-time regular season matchups

in Pittsburgh.