Pirates struggle against Simon, get shut out for second straight game in 1-0 loss to Tigers



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PITTSBURGH — Francisco Liriano made 89 pitches in his return to work following the birth of his fourth child. Only one turned out to be a mistake.

Given the way the Pittsburgh Pirates' offense is going at the moment, that's still one too many.

Detroit's Rajai Davis sent an 81 mph slider from Liriano into the first row of seats in left field leading off the sixth inning, providing starter Alfredo Simon with all the run support he would need in a 1-0 win on Wednesday.

A night after managing just three hits against Shane Greene in a 2-0 loss, the Pirates weren't any better against Simon. Pittsburgh's entire offensive output consisted of consecutive two-out singles by Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker in the fourth inning. Not exactly the way to hang with one of baseball's top teams.

The Pirates are hitting just .207 on the season, haven't scored in 20 straight innings or drawn a walk since Saturday.

"We're just a tick off and sometimes a tick off is a lot at the major league level," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.

Detroit won two of three in the interleague series despite scoring just seven runs. Simon (2-0) struck out only two but took advantage of solid defense behind him as the Tigers handed Pittsburgh consecutive home losses for the first time since last August. Detroit had just five hits off four Pittsburgh pitchers but received all the offense it would need when Davis hit his first home run of the season.

"I hang a pitch, he put a good swing on it," Liriano said.

It was the only misstep on an otherwise solid outing from Liriano (0-1), who struck out seven and walked two. Expertly mixing his fastball with offspeed stuff that kept Detroit's powerful lineup off balance, Liriano matched Simon for five innings before Davis smacked just the 36th home of his decade-long career.

That was more than enough for Simon (2-0). A surprise All-Star a year ago for Cincinnati, the beefy right-hander breezed through Pittsburgh's punchless lineup after surviving an eventful 5 1-3 innings in his debut with Detroit last Friday.

Simon hit McCutchen in the left arm in the first and gave up back to back singles to McCutchen and Walker in the fourth. Starling Marte grounded into a fielders' choice to end the threat and Simon went right back to work, retiring the final 10 batters he faced.

The Tigers, who came roaring into town undefeated behind baseball's top offense, cooled over three games but still managed to improve to 8-1 heading into a 10-game homestand that begins on Friday against the Chicago White Sox.

EARLY EXIT

Home plate umpire Jerry Layne left the game in the top of the ninth inning when an 88 mph cutter from Mark Melancon struck Layne's mask. Layne pointed to his mouth in obvious pain and the game was delayed for several minutes as the crew tried to figure out what happened. There was some apparent confusion over whether Layne called the pitch from Melancon to Miguel Cabrera a strike or ball four.

"Jerry wasn't in the best position to explain," Hurdle said. "Hunter (Wendelstedt) said 'I thought he said foul tip and he said 'chipped tooth.' He just said it was a hard conversation to have."

After a lengthy review Cabrera was awarded first base. Second-base umpire Bob Davidson called the rest of the game in Layne's place.

TRAINER'S ROOM

Tigers: Pitcher Justin Verlander's return from a strained right triceps hit a speedbump on Wednesday when he ended a simulated game early due to fatigue. Verlander threw 80 pitches total, 35 in the bullpen and another 45 on the mound. Manager Brad Ausmus said Verlander will likely need another simulated game or a rehab start before he's ready to be activated off the disabled list.

Pirates: Pitcher Charlie Morton will make a start at extended spring training on Saturday, where he will be on a 55-pitch limit. Morton is returning from offseason hip surgery.

UP NEXT

Tigers: David Price (1-0) takes a 21 2-3 regular season scoreless inning streak into Friday's game at the Chicago White Sox. Price hasn't given up a run in his last three regular season starts. The 29-year-old Price is 7-2 with a 2.89 ERA in 12 career games (10 starts) at Comerica Park.

Pirates: Pittsburgh gets a second look at Milwaukee when the teams open a three-game series at PNC Park on Friday. The Pirates won two of three against the Brewers on the road last week. The lone loss came against Friday's starter Jimmy Nelson, who threw seven shutout innings at the Pirates last Saturday. Jeff Locke (1-0, 3.00 ERA) starts for Pittsburgh.

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