Pirates tame Tigers to snap mini-skid

Pittsburgh Pirates' John Jaso bats against the Detroit Tigers in the second inning of a baseball game, Monday, April 11, 2016, in Detroit. (AP)

DETROIT (AP) – The Pittsburgh Pirates’ offensive game plan worked out well on Monday.

The Pirates doubled five times off Justin Verlander and drove up his pitch count before forcing him out in the fifth inning of a 7-4 victory.

“That’s something we’ve talked about our guys all winter, and we really emphasized it in the spring,” Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.

“You have to show patience and follow the process, and that takes courage in the major leagues. It isn’t easy to put yourself in a two-strike count, especially against a guy like that, but that is something that you might have to do in order to get the right pitch.”

Much of the damage was done by the bottom five batters in the Pirates’ order, as they went a combined 10 for 17 with three doubles.

“When you are getting that kind of production from the bottom of your order, any major league team is going to do well,” Hurdle said.

“They were squaring up all balls and fouling off a lot of good pitches – everyone was – and that’s going to play well.”

Verlander (0-1), who took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning at Miami in his first start, allowed seven runs and 10 hits in 4 1/3 innings. His 111 pitches were his most in an outing lasting fewer than five innings.

He appeared to have good stuff early, but the Pirates were able to run up his pitch count in the first two innings. Verlander needed 18 pitches as Pittsburgh scored a run in the first, then threw 37 in the second.

“It felt like they hit anything – I don’t remember getting many swings and misses,” he said. “It is kind of a snowball effect, especially against a lineup like that. They get locked in and pile good at-bat on good at-bat, and by the second or third time through the order, they’ve seen a lot of pitches.”

Jonathon Niese (1-0) gave up four runs – three earned – and five hits in six innings. Three relievers finished, with Matt Melancon pitching a one-hit ninth for his third save.

“Those still aren’t the results I want, because we’re still working on my delivery, but it is a huge step forward,” said Niese, who gave up five runs in five innings of his first start. “That’s a great lineup from 1 to 9, and I was able to make big pitches when I needed them.”

Nick Castellanos and J.D. Martinez homered for the Tigers, who have lost two straight after a 3-0 start.
Matt Joyce hit an RBI single in the first, ending a 31 at-bat hitless streak dating to July 9 against Seatte’s Felix Hernandez, and Jody Mercer fouled off four two-strike pitches in the second, then lined a two-run single for a 3-0 lead.

In the second game of the series today at Comerica Park, Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez (1-0) is to start against Juan Nicasio (1-0, 1.50).