Francisco Cervelli, Jordy Mercer Homer To Boost Pittsburgh Pirates Over Detroit Tigers

LAKELAND, Florida -- The Pittsburgh Pirates hit a home run in the first inning and never looked back against the Detroit Tigers to get a 4-2 win at Joker Marchant Stadium in the 2016 Grapefruit League opener. 

A towering fly ball to left field off the bat of Francisco Cervelli cleared the fences against Tigers starting pitcher Matt Boyd in the top of the first inning to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead. 

"I was lucky, man," Cervelli said. "Just swing the bat and then the ball's gone. That's it."

Boyd gave up one run on three hits across two innings pitched for Detroit. The starting pitcher, acquired by the Tigers at the 2015 Trade Deadline in a trade that sent David Price to the Toronto Blue Jays, struck out two hitters.

In 2015, Boyd posted a 7.53 ERA across 57.1 major league innings. He will compete with Daniel Norris for the final spot in the Tigers rotation, but he will only get back in if the 25-year-old can get his fastball away from the center of the strike zone. Comparing the minor leagues to major leagues last season, Boyd's home run rate quadrupled. 

Following Boyd was Angel Nesbitt, Kyle Fulmer and Kyle Ryan. Nesbitt and Fulmer pitched a combined three scoreless innings of baseball, but Ryan gave up a homer shortstop Jordy Mercer of the Pirates.

This is an important season for Mercer, who is arbitration-eligible and must stay healthy to remain an every day shortstop for the rest of his career. He has struggled to stay healthy over his career and one more stint on the disabled list might be the end of things for Mercer in Pittsburgh. 

Detroit got the two runs back with a line drive two-run homer to right field from veteran designated hitter Victor Martinez, scoring Dominic Ficociello, who doubled off Rob Scahill earlier in the inning. The switch hitting cleanup hitter juiced the shot from the left side. Martinez will need to be more productive than he was last season to keep his spot in the lineup. 

"No question from Day 1, I've been putting eyes on Victor, not only as he swings the bat but moving around," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "So far, so good."

The Pirates tacked on two runs in the top of the seventh inning on an RBI from both Alen Hanson and Jason Rogers to take a 4-2 lead over the Tigers. 

Even though he gave up the home run to Martinez, Scahill got the win, while Logan Kensing took the loss and Kelvin Marte got his first save of spring training. 

JaCoby Jones played shortstop against the Pirates, his 2015 team. Meanwhile, Kyle Lobstein started against the Tigers and Neftali Feliz threw later in the game. Both pitchers played for the Tigers in the 2015 season, but were added by the Pirates this winter. Pirates closer Joakim Soria, who the Tigers traded to the Pirates for Jones, did not get a look in the Grapefruit League opener. 

Detroit will send a split-squad out on Wednesday. Mike Pelfrey is set to toe the slab for his Detroit debut against the New York Yankees, sending Luis Severino to the hill, at 1:05 PM ET in Tampa, Florida. Meanwhile, Buck Famer will make the trip to Fradenton, Florida to start for the Tigers against the Pirates. 

Jeff Locke will make the start for the Pirates against the Tigers on Wednesday. The game at McKechnie Field will feature University of Michigan football head coach Jim Harbaugh coaching first base for the Tigers. Juan Nicasio, Jorge Rondon and Eric O'Flaherty will make their Pirates debut in the event.