DETROIT, Michigan -- The Detroit Tigers tallied 14 hits at Comerica Park and got an outstanding performance from the pitching staff en route to an 8-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Justin Upton hit his first home run in a Tigers uniform to dead center field in the bottom of the first inning off Juan Nicasio. The solo shot traveled 452 feet with a 109.3 miles per hour speed off the bat. J.D. Martinez kept the inning alive with a a one-out single scoring Miguel Cabrera for a 2-0 lead in the first frame.
“I was surprised that it went out to center,” Upton said. “It’s a good feeling. When you’re running out of the box and those guys shut it down, it eases your mind a little bit.”
In the bottom of the second inning, Upton was back at it again. The 28-year-old, who signed a six-year, $132.75 million deal with Detroit this winter, picked up another RBI on a single to the left side of the field. Cabrera followed the hit with a single of his own to score Upton.
“We can play the small game, too,” Upton said. “As you saw today, we hit a lot of singles, kept pressure on the pitchers and put together good at-bats, so it’s something we’re capable of doing, and hopefully we can keep doing it.”
Nicasio took the loss and fell to 1-1 with a 5.00 ERA. The 29-year-old only made it 3.0 innings against Detroit. Nicasio gave up four runs on six hits and five walks.
"He's got a good riding fastball, and sometimes it looks hittable when it's a little bit above your bat," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "So the emphasis was to really get the ball down in the zone so you can get on top of it a little bit."
Down 4-0 in the top of the sixth inning, the Pirates (5-3) finally found the board. With David Freese on-base and Anibal Sanchez still on the hill for the Tigers, Starling Marte launched a two-out home run. The two-run circuit smash to left field cut Detroit's lead to two runs.
Sanchez went 5.2 innings strong, giving up two runs on four hits and three walks with four punch outs. The right-hander is now 2-0 with a 3.38 ERA this season.
“I’ll take those results all year long, not just for me, but for the team,” Sanchez said.
The Tigers (4-2) got both runs back and took a 6-2 lead as Victor Martinez, a veteran designated hitter, doubled to center field off Kyle Lobstein in the bottom of the sixth inning. The next batter, J.D. Martinez, hit his second two-bagger of the season to increase the Tigers edge to 7-2 over the Pirates.
Believe it or not, Lobstein pitched in the Motor City from 2013-2015. Lobstein was purchased by the Pirates from the Tigers on December 21, 2015. Facing his old team, Lobstein gave up three runs on six hits and two walks across 3.0 innings.
"Two good innings early, and then he missed locations," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's basically what we saw [from Lobstein]."
The final run for Detroit was a bye-bye ball off the club of Ian Kinsler. It was the second home run of the season for the second baseball acquired by the Tigers in a trade sending Prince Fielder to the Texas Rangers during November of 2013.
Kinsler finished 2-for-4 with an RBI, a walk and three runs scored. Upton went 4-for-5 with two RBI and three runs scored, while J.D. Martinez picked up four hits and two RBI.
As for Pittsburgh, Freese, Marte, Josh Harison and Jordy Mercer combined for the only five hits from the Pirates against Sanchez, Justin Wilson, Drew VerHagen, Buck Farmer and Francisco Rodriguez.
Rodriguez, known as K-Rod, gave up one hit during the ninth inning, but was able to shut the door with a strikeout to secure the 8-2 victory for the Tigers.
The Tigers will continue playing the Pirates, but the teams will travel to PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Shane Greene will go for the Tigers, while Ryan Vogelsong will toe the slab for the Bucs.