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Pirates' Walker settles pitchers' duel with HR in 11th

CBSSports.com wire reports
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DETROIT -- Jason Grilli has picked up a lot of saves in his years as a closer, but none tougher than what he had to do against the Detroit Tigers on Tuesday night.

Grilli came into the game in the bottom of the 11th inning with the Pittsburgh Pirates clinging to a 1-0 lead and the heart of Detroit's order -- Torii Hunter, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder -- awaiting him.

"That's as good as it gets in any lineup in the game," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "That's why you have a closer."

For Grilli, it also meant trying to finish a game at Comerica Park -- a stadium where he had been booed relentlessly at the end of his four-season stint with the Tigers.

"I have nothing but great memories of this place," Grilli said. "This is where Jim [Leyland] turned me into a reliever, and despite what the media might think I love coming back here."

If the situation or the setting bothered Grilli, it certainly didn't show. He struck out Hunter, Cabrera and Fielder in order, ending the game as the clock approached 11:30 p.m.

"That's a great offense, and Miguel Cabrera is probably the best hitter in baseball right now," Grilli said. "So I was trying to not make a big mistake, but you can't spend much time thinking about that. You just go out there and win the game."

Grilli certainly impressed the first of his victims while posting his 21st save in as many chances.

"I faced him when I was in Minnesota and he was here in Detroit, and he's a different pitcher now," Hunter said. "He's smart and he's got a little deception going. He jumps out at you, and before you know it, the ball is gone."

Leyland knows just how far Grilli has come since moving to the bullpen in 2006.

"He's found a home and he's found a role and he's been terrific," he said. "That's 21 for 21, and to do that against the heart of our order -- that's impressive."

Grilli finished what Jeanmar Gomez had started. Gomez matched a career best with seven shutout innings in a duel with Detroit's Rick Porcello, who worked eight.

"I was just feeling really good today," said Gomez, who threw only 73 pitches. "Every one of my pitches was working, so I was working ahead in the count and down in the zone. That's what made it good."

The game was scoreless until Neil Walker -- the brother-in-law of Tigers center fielder Don Kelly -- connected off Jose Ortega (0-2) with one out in the top of the 11th.

"I've been swinging the bat really well on this road trip, and I've been getting the barrel on the ball just about every night," Walker said. "That kid throws hard, but he kind of floated a slider into the strike zone and I was able to drive it."

Mark Melanson (1-0) picked up the win with a scoreless 10th inning for Pittsburgh.

Porcello also matched a career best with his eight innings and struck out a career-high 11 batters. Porcello isn't the first Tigers pitcher to dominate Pittsburgh at Comerica Park. Last season, Justin Verlander took a no-hitter into the ninth against the Pirates, two days before Max Scherzer struck out 15 batters in a 4-3 victory.

"Someone said to me today that we seem to strike out a lot in this ballpark," Hurdle said. "I told them to look at Detroit's pitching staff. Everyone strikes out a lot against those guys."

Gomez got some help from center fielder Andrew McCutchen, who made a running catch to rob Andy Dirks of extra bases in the third inning and another to steal a double from Fielder in the seventh.

Pedro Alvarez led off the eighth with a single and took second when Travis Snider walked -- the first time either team had put a runner into scoring position -- but Porcello got Clint Barmes to ground into an inning-ending double play.

In the bottom of the inning, Omar Infante got to second on a one-out throwing error by Barmes at shortstop. Reliever Justin Wilson retired pinch-hitter Brayan Pena on a ground ball, and struck out Dirks.

Walker singled off Joaquin Benoit in the ninth, stole second and took third on Pena's throwing error, but Garrett Jones flew out to end the threat. Victor Martinez almost ended the deadlock in the bottom of the ninth, but Starling Marte made a running catch of his liner at the fence in left.

Both teams put runners into scoring position in the 10th, but couldn't get a run across until Walker's no-doubt homer in the 11th.

"We had chances in the eighth, ninth and 10th, but we couldn't get the big hit," Hurdle said. "We finally got that in the 11th."

Notes

  • The start of the game was delayed 1:13 by rain.
  • The Pirates placed Jose Contreras (low back inflammation) on the 15-day disabled list and recalled reliever Bryan Morris from Triple-A Indianapolis.
  • The Tigers have struck out 10 or more batters 28 times -- the second-highest total in franchise history behind last season's 50. Detroit is currently on pace for 91 double-digit games.
  • Porcello pitched into the ninth on July 21, 2012, against the White Sox, but didn't record an out.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Pirates second baseman Neil Walker follows the flight of the first extra-inning home run of his MLB career.  (USATSI)
Pirates second baseman Neil Walker follows the flight of the first extra-inning home run of his MLB career. (USATSI)

Players of the Game
Detroit

R. Porcello
IP 8.0
H 3
ER 0
BB 1
K 11
Pittsburgh

J. Gomez
IP 7.0
H 3
ER 0
BB 1
K 2
 
Pittsburgh Pirates
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Starling Marte, LF5000010 .297
Neil Walker, 2B5131010 .259
Andrew McCutchen, CF5010032 .290
Garrett Jones, DH5000013 .269
Russell Martin, C4010021 .255
Pedro Alvarez, 3B3010020 .197
    Josh Harrison, PR-3B0000000 .111
    Brandon Inge, 3B0000000 .227
Gaby Sanchez, 1B4000032 .234
Travis Snider, RF2000200 .262
Clint Barmes, SS3000011 .212
   a- Jordy Mercer, PH-SS1000002 .288
Totals37161214  
a-flied out for Barmes in the 10th
Batting
HR - Neil Walker (3, Ortega)
SH - Josh Harrison (1)
RBI - Neil Walker (15)
SB - Neil Walker (1, 3rd base off Benoit/B. Pena)
Team LOB - 6
Fielding
DP - Barmes-G. Sanchez
E - Clint Barmes (6, Throwing)
Pittsburgh Pirates
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Jeanmar Gomez 7300120 2.30
Justin Wilson 2100020 1.45
Mark Melancon (W,1-0) 1100110 0.96
Jason Grilli (S,21) 1000030 1.14
Pitches-Strikes - Jeanmar Gomez 73-49, Justin Wilson 27-19, Mark Melancon 22-16, Jason Grilli 19-13
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Jeanmar Gomez 10-8, Justin Wilson 4-1, Mark Melancon 2-0
Batters Faced - Jeanmar Gomez 24, Justin Wilson 8, Mark Melancon 5, Jason Grilli 3
Detroit Tigers
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Andy Dirks, LF5000013 .252
Torii Hunter, RF5010020 .312
Miguel Cabrera, 3B5010011 .373
Prince Fielder, 1B5010021 .273
Victor Martinez, DH4000001 .225
Jhonny Peralta, SS4010010 .339
Alex Avila, C1010100 .177
   a- Avisail Garcia, PH-CF2000000 .240
Omar Infante, 2B3000102 .303
Don Kelly, CF2000001 .186
   b- Brayan Pena, PH-C2000013 .304
Totals3805028  
a-grounded out for Avila in the 8th
b-grounded out for Kelly in the 8th
Fielding
DP - Cabrera-Fielder
E - Brayan Pena (1, Throwing)
Detroit Tigers
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Rick Porcello 83001110 5.29
Joaquin Benoit 1100020 1.57
Jose Ortega (L,0-2) 2211111 3.97
IBB - Snider by Jose Ortega
Pitches-Strikes - Rick Porcello 99-67, Joaquin Benoit 17-12, Jose Ortega 28-16
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Rick Porcello 9-3, Jose Ortega 3-2
Batters Faced - Rick Porcello 27, Joaquin Benoit 4, Jose Ortega 9
Game Information
Attendance - 33473
Game Time - 3:11
Temperature - 72
Umpires - Home - Larry Vanover, First Base - Wally Bell, Second Base - Manny Gonzalez, Third Base - Tony Randazzo