PITTSBURGH, Pennsylvania -- Nick Castellanos doubled, hit a home run and drove in four runs for the Detroit Tigers to help defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates, 7-4, at PNC Park on Thursday afternoon.
Castellanos got the scoring started with a two-RBI double to center field, scoring Justin Upton and J.D. Martinez, for a 2-0 lead in the top of the fourth inning. The double off Gerrit Cole was the second of the season for the third baseman.
In the bottom of the fifth inning, the Pirates (5-5) had a huge scoring chance with the bases loaded and one out, but Jordan Zimmermann was determined to not allow any runs. Starling Marte took the count full before popping out to second base for the second out of the inning. Gregory Polanco, who had a 3-0 count, took a strike before popping out. Zimmermann still has not allowed a bases-loaded walk since 2011.
"I couldn't locate the fastball for whatever reason and fell behind," Zimmermann said. "My slider was good and I can throw it whenever I want. I went with that. And then 3-1, bases loaded, I went with a backdoor slider and got him to pop up. Most guys, the heater's coming 3-1, and they go with their best pitch. But when you're comfortable throwing your slider and you can throw it for strikes when you want, why not go with it?"
Zimmermann almost caused an injury to Cole, who got the start for the Pirates. The pitcher, batting due to interleague play, hit a liner back up the middle and took off the cap off of the 25-year-old right-handed pitcher.
“I didn’t know where it hit him,” Zimmermann said. “I guess it just grazed him. I am glad it didn’t hit him square. It’s never a pretty sight when that happens. I hope he’s all right. He’s one of the top pitchers in the game.”
Cole gave up two runs on four hits and a walk across 6.0 innings pitched. While he recorded five strikeouts, Cole took the loss and is now 0-2 on the season with a 4.22 ERA.
Zimmermann pitched 6.0 scoreless innings for Detroit, which he struck out four batters, walked two and gave up six hits. The 29-year-old is now 2-0 with a 0.00 ERA during his first season with the Tigers.
“Zimmermann pitched with a lot of runners on base, but he’s built for that,” second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “His demeanor, his mentality, he’s just not a guy who’s going to get rattled. He had to throw a lot of stress pitches today with guys on base and he was able to do it.
“That’s the sign of a real quality pitcher.”
The Tigers (6-2) added two runs in the top of the seventh as Tyler Collins, who got the start over Anthony Gose, doubled in a run off Rob Scahill. Backup catcher Bobby Wilson flew out to deep center field, but it was enough to allow Castellanos to cross home.
While Marte popped out with the bases loaded earlier in the game, he got Pittsburgh on the board with an RBI single to score John Jaso in the bottom of the seventh. Josh Harrison and Jordy Mercer added RBI singles of their own to cut the deficit of the Pirates to one run.
Detroit needed to gain a cushion with just a one run lead going into the eighth inning, but the team would have to battle against the usually lights-out lefty reliever Tony Watson.
J.D. Martinez pulled a pitch to right field and it was deep enough to score Kinsler from third base in the top of the eighth against Watson. With Miguel Cabrera on-base, Castellanos continued his outstanding performance with his second homer of the season to give Detroit a 7-3 edge over Pittsburgh.
"I guess it just reminds you that these guys are human beings and they're not going to have a 0.00 ERA at the end of the season," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of Watson, who now holds a 5.06 ERA. "Couple elevated pitches and they made him pay. That lineup can swing the bat."
The final run of the game was scored by the Pirates in the bottom of the eighth as David Freese hit his first double as a member of the Pirates off Mark Lowe. Even though Pittsburgh scored, the team still trailed by three runs.
Francisco Rodriguez entered the game in the bottom of the ninth inning and pitched a perfect inning to record his second save of the season and secure a 7-4 victory for the Tigers.
“Going up against a good team like this on the road, in this park and coming away with two wins, that’s an excellent way to start a long trip,” Brad Ausmus, who turned 47 years old on Thursday, said.
The Pirates will play against the Milwaukee Brewers (4-5) on Friday at 7:05 PM ET. Pittsburgh will send Jeff Locke (0-0, 1.50 ERA) to the hill and he will be opposed by Jimmy Nelson (1-1, 2.70 ERA).
The Tigers will play the Houston Astros (3-6) at 8:10 PM ET on Friday. Detroit will toss Mike Pelfrey (0-1, 14.73 ERA) and Houston will send Dallas Keuchel (1-1, 3.55 ERA) to toe the slab.