Pirates-Tigers Preview

The Associated Press

After opening his career in stellar fashion, Detroit's Drew Smyly had his first subpar showing his last time out.

He would seem to have a good chance of bouncing back against a Pittsburgh Pirates team that excels at making outs.

Smyly takes the ball for the Tigers on Saturday looking to shut down the Pirates one day after they were nearly no-hit.

In Friday's series opener at Comerica Park, Justin Verlander came within two outs of another no-hitter, allowing only Josh Harrison's soft ninth-inning single to center field in the Tigers' 6-0 win.

"That's why throwing no-hitters is so difficult,'' the four-time All-Star said. "It doesn't take a hard one, it just takes the right placement.''

Verlander completed his one-hit gem with 12 strikeouts and two walks.

"That's a master craftsman with a power tool," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "He can take you places you don't want to go."

The overpowering performance was hardly a surprise considering Verlander is the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner and has already thrown two no-hitters, while the Pirates' offense is shaping up to be one of the worst of all-time.

Pittsburgh (18-21) is batting a major league-worst .217 - the lowest mark since the 1972 Texas Rangers also hit .217 and the fifth-worst average since 1900.

The Pirates are also last in the majors in runs (111) and on-base percentage (.269), and had four players in Friday's lineup batting less than .200. They've been held to two runs or fewer in nearly half their games (19) and have plated a run or less 13 times.

Smyly (1-0, 2.31 ERA) now tries to extend the misery for Pittsburgh.

Smyly was sensational in his first six major league starts, posting a 1.59 ERA while yielding two runs or fewer in each outing and a run or less five times. The 22-year-old left-hander finally had a hiccup in Monday's 7-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox, giving up four runs and five hits in five innings, the damage being done on a pair of two-run homers. He had surrendered only three home runs in his first six outings.

While Pittsburgh's offense continues to sputter, Detroit's is starting to show some signs of life.

The Tigers (19-20) matched a season high with five doubles Friday and have scored at least six runs in three of the last four games after reaching that mark three times in their previous 14. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder each had run-scoring doubles Friday, and seem to be locked in at the plate.

Cabrera is hitting .407 with seven RBIs in the last six games, while Fielder is batting .526 with four doubles and six RBIs during a five-game hitting streak. They'll look to keep this up against A.J. Burnett (1-2, 5.12), who has allowed two runs and six hits over eight innings in each of his last two starts since being shelled for 12 runs in 2 2-3 innings against St. Louis on May 2. Aside from that dud, the right-hander, who last pitched in Monday's 3-2, 12-inning win over Houston, has a 1.86 ERA in his other four outings.

Having been in the AL the previous six seasons, Burnett is no stranger to facing the Tigers, and they are one of the few teams he had success against last season. He went 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA in three starts against the Tigers last year, which includes a victory at Comerica Park in Game 4 of the ALDS. He was 7-9 with a 5.46 ERA against the rest of the AL.

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