After emerging victorious in a pitchers' duel on Tuesday, the Pittsburgh Pirates could again find runs hard to come by just a day later when their interleague series with the Detroit Tigers and Anibal Sanchez shifts to PNC Park.
The Pirates split a two-game set in Detroit, getting handed a 6-5 loss by the Tigers in Monday's opener before outlasting the AL Central leaders through 11 innings last night for a 1-0 victory.
Neil Walker's third home run of the season accounted for the game's lone run as he took a first-pitch slider from Tigers reliever Jose Ortega over the fence in right field with one out in the 11th frame.
"Sometimes you get into these games and you're wondering what kind of run is going to win it, and sometimes that's the one that wins it; somebody who happened to hit the ball over the fence," Walker said. "That's certainly not my game. My game is gap-to-gap and line drives, but occasionally I'll be able to lift a ball and get one out of the ballpark."
Jason Grilli struck out the side in the home half to pick up his 21st save of the season and give the Pirates their 14th victory in the past 18 games. They have won 17 games in the month of May for the first time since 1999, but still remain 2 1/2 games back of first-place St. Louis in the NL Central.
Pittsburgh starter Jeanmar Gomez and Detroit hurler Rick Porcello dueled throughout the contest. Gomez scattered three hits over seven scoreless innings, while Porcello surrendered three hits and struck out a career-high 11 batters over eight frames.
"We didn't do much (offensively) all night. Both starting pitchers were terrific," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland after his club lost for the second time in eight games.
Getting the start for Detroit tonight will be Sanchez, who last time out was just two outs away from becoming the only active pitcher to throw a no-hitter with two different teams. Instead, he settled for his sixth career shutout in a one-hit victory over the Minnesota Twins.
Sanchez had his no-hitter broken up by Joe Mauer and also walked three while striking out 12. He threw 130 pitches and also logged a no-hitter with the Florida Marlins on Sept. 6, 2006.
"He had a shot at it ... but that was just an unbelievable performance by Sanchez," said Leyland.
Twins manager Rod Gardenhire was also impressed.
"(Sanchez) shut us down totally and had great stuff," said Gardenhire. "The ball was moving all over the place. Our guys said the ball was really diving, his breaking ball was really sharp."
The 29-year-old right-hander is 5-4 with a 2.38 earned run average through 10 starts this season and could be in line for another gem tonight. The Pirates are hitting just .192 against him in five previous meetings, with Sanchez is 2-3 with a 2.50 ERA in that time.
Also working in favor of Sanchez and the Tigers is the fact that the Pirates have been outscored 13-5 in A.J. Burnett's last four starts. The right-hander, who goes tonight for Pittsburgh, has three losses and a no-decision in that span despite not allowing more than three earned runs in any of those outings.
Burnett picked up a 2-1 loss in Milwaukee on Friday, charged with two runs on three hits and two walks over seven innings. He also struck out six, but fell to 3-5 on the season with a 2.57 ERA through 11 starts.
The 36-year-old is 6-2 with a 5.27 ERA in 10 career starts versus the Tigers.
The Tigers and Pirates split six meetings a season ago, with each team winning two of three at home. They'll wrap this string of four straight against each other on Thursday in Pittsburgh.