Pittsburgh has won all five of Jeanmar Gomez's starts this season, but that trend figures to face a huge test on Tuesday evening when the Pirates wrap the first half of a home-and-home series with the Detroit Tigers.
The right-handed Gomez pitched out of the bullpen in April and has gone 1-0 with a 2.82 earned run average in five starts this month. Gomez has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of those outings, but has yet to pitch past the fifth inning either.
Gomez may have done so on Thursday versus the Chicago Cubs, but his outing ended after 3 2/3 innings due to a 1-hour, 47-minute rain delay. He gave up just a run on three hits without a walk and did not get a decision.
The 25-year-old is 2-0 with a 2.75 ERA in 10 total appearances this season, but struggled versus the Tigers during his time with the Cleveland Indians to begin his career. In five starts against them, Gomez is 2-2 with a 7.82 ERA.
Pittsburgh, which has put together its best May in 14 years, tried to keep pace with Detroit in Monday's opener before eventually suffering a 6-5 setback.
Jhonny Peralta went 4-for-4 at the plate and drove in three runs for the Tigers, lifting his season average to .341. That is tied for second best in the AL behind only teammate Miguel Cabrera's .377 average.
Victor Martinez collected two hits and drove in a pair of runs, while Prince Fielder scored three times in the Tigers' sixth victory in seven games.
Justin Verlander worked seven frames, striking out a season-high 13 batters while yielding three runs on seven hits with two walks. Jose Valverde tossed a scoreless ninth for his sixth save of the season.
"I'm not going to say this was a great game because I struck out 13 guys," Verlander said. "That's showing me that my offspeed stuff was a lot better. I just know from me being out there that the fastball control wasn't where I wanted it. I expect the bar I set for myself to be high."
Travis Snider finished with three hits, an RBI and scored once for the Pirates, who lost for only second time in their last eight. Their 16-8 record this month marks the first time the franchise has won more than 15 games in May since going 17-12 in 1999.
Neil Walker, Andrew McCutchen and Gaby Sanchez each drove in a run, while Francisco Liriano yielded four runs and eight hits over five innings to suffer his first loss of the season.
Pittsburgh twice rallied to pull within a run in the game, scoring twice in the eighth frame to make it a 6-5 game. Following a run-scoring double by Sanchez, Josh Harrison came on to pinch-run, but was picked off of second base by Joaquin Benoit.
"I'm taking a couple extra steps, maybe I go," said Harrison about the play after his teammates stole three bases earlier in the game. "But then Benoit did something different that he didn't do the previous five pitches."
Taking the hill for the Tigers will be right-hander Rick Porcello, who has dominated the Pirates in two previous meetings. He won both, giving up just one run over 15 total innings.
Porcello has won both of his decisions over five starts since recording just two outs and yielding nine runs in a loss at the L.A. Angels of Anaheim on April 20. He did struggle a bit in a no-decision versus Minnesota last time out, giving up five runs on 10 hits and a walk in five innings.
In nine games this season, including eight starts, the 24-year-old is 2-2 with a 6.28 ERA.
The Tigers and Pirates split six meetings a season ago, with each team winning two of three at home. They'll play two straight in Pittsburgh starting on Wednesday.