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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
James Hawkins

Tigers get timely hits, help in fifth to top Pirates in Game 1

DETROIT — It's no secret the Tigers have been struggling — at the plate, in the field and even to simply stay healthy — over the first month of the season.

The way manager AJ Hinch sees it, his team is dealing with a "success in the game" issue.

"You know what will fix all this is hits. What fixes called strikes are throwing strikes and getting into leverage counts," Hinch said Wednesday, before the team's doubleheader with the Pirates at Comerica Park.

"It's all out on the field. It's not a perspective issue. It's not a work issue. It's not an attention to detail issue. ... We've got to get better results in the game."

That happened in Game 1, when the Tigers (8-14) used a combination of hard hits and gifts from the Pirates in the decisive fifth inning to come away with a 3-2 win.

Trailing 2-0, Jeimer Candelario hit a leadoff double to right center, Willi Castro reached on a fielding error by Pirates shortstop Cole Tucker, who bungled a grounder, and Akil Baddoo drew a walk to load the bases with one out.

Robbie Grossman drove in a run and advanced all the runners with a sacrifice fly to deep center. Javy Baez then put the Tigers ahead when third baseman Ke'Bryan Hayes whiffed on a high chopper and the ball trickled into left field, allowing Castro and Baddoo to score.

That proved to be enough offense for a Tigers attack that mustered just three hits. Willi Castro notched a two-out single in the second and Baddoo singled to center in the seventh.

The Pirates didn't fare much better against Michael Pineda, who held them under wraps over the first four innings and was backed by a pair of dazzling plays by shortstop Baez out of the infield shift.

Baez made a sliding play in the third to knock down Bryan Reynolds' hard grounder up the middle and did a no-look, between-the-legs glove flip to get the force out at second. Baez made another sliding grab in the fourth, this time snagging a sharply hit grounder back up the middle by Daniel Vogelbach in shallow center field.

But Pineda ran into trouble in the fifth, when the Pirates executed a hit-and-run that put runners on the corners with one out and ended his day. Alex Lange couldn't work out of the jam, falling behind 3-0 to Ben Gamel — the first batter he faced — before Gamel stroked a two-run triple into the right-center field gap for a 2-0 lead.

Detroit's bullpen buckled down from there, with Jacob Barnes, Andrew Chafin and Michael Fulmer all pitching a clean inning of relief before Gregory Soto closed it out.

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