PITTSBURGH – Four pitches in, Kevin Correia knew he had probably handed Justin Verlander too much support.
Correia allowed a two-run homer two batters into the game before settling in to pitch six effective innings. Verlander was better, tossing a five-hitter in the Detroit Tigers' 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday.
Quintin Berry's first-inning home run against Correia was his first in 96 career big league at-bats. Austin Jackson singled ahead of Berry.
"I pitched pretty good after," Correia said, "but it's tough to spot a guy like Verlander two runs. I knew after that that's all I could give up if I was going to keep us in the game."
Correia retiring 12 of the next 15 and didn't allow another runner to advance past second. He gave up six hits and a walk, and struck out four.
That gave Garrett Jones a chance to tie the game with his ninth homer after Pedro Alvarez's single in the seventh.
"I was geared up to hit the fastball, but he hung a changeup and I was able to recognize it, stay through it and get the good part of the bat on it," Jones said.
The tie lasted only a half-inning. Berry walked with one out and stole second. Chris Resop (0-3) intentionally walked Prince Fielder to face Delmon Young, who was 1 for 9 in the series before a single in his previous at-bat. He then singled to right to score Berry.
Verlander retired all six batters he faced to close out the game after the Tigers retook the lead. Verlander struck out three in the final two innings and finished with seven overall.
Andrew McCutchen entered the game on a 15-for-28 tear but capped an 0-for-4 day against Verlander by flying out to begin the ninth. Casey McGehee and Pedro Alvarez struck out to end the game.
"That was not an easy order to go through in the ninth inning, and he took charge of that ninth inning pretty good," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "That's why he's, in my opinion, the best pitcher in baseball."
Verlander needed 117 pitches to toss his fourth complete game of the season and 18th of his career. He has won three consecutive starts.
"I actually didn't feel particularly great," Verlander said. "But at least my location was there. I was able to locate pretty well and got a lot of weak contact because of that. I didn't have the flashy fastball or anything, but I was able to pitch and go nine innings."
Detroit avoided a sweep, winning for only the second time in five games.
Five weeks after he took a no-hitter into the ninth against the Pirates in Detroit on May 18, Verlander's 1-1 changeup to Jones was the only big mistake he would make.
Verlander (8-4) had allowed only two infield hits through six innings.
"That's a tough draw for anybody," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "I thought that we battled and we pitched extremely well again. The first two batters in you are 2-0 down, Correia stops them right there and we give up one more run."
Pittsburgh remained one game behind the Cincinnati Reds, who lost to Minnesota, in the NL Central.
The Tigers matched their run total for the first two games of the series combined before many in the crowd of 35,179 had even settled into their seats. The series drew 111,878 to PNC Park, the fifth-most for a three-game series at the 12-year-old ballpark.
Pittsburgh had won 16 of 20 at home and had already clinched its fifth consecutive home series victory with consecutive 4-1 wins Friday and Saturday.
A sweep appeared out of the question once Verlander was handed a two-run lead. But Jones tied it with his ninth homer and second in four games.
Including 5 1-3 shutout innings in a win against Minnesota on Tuesday, Correia has put together two consecutive strong outings.
Correia was thought to be a candidate to be the odd man out of the rotation when Jeff Karstens was activated from the disabled list this week, but the Pirates announced after the game that Karstens will start Monday in Philadelphia.
Brad Lincoln is returning to the bullpen, and the remainder of the Pittsburgh rotation will be pushed back a day. A corresponding roster move will be made on Monday.
NOTES: Hurdle was ejected by home plate umpire Marty Foster for arguing a checked-swing call on McGehee. ... Pittsburgh claimed INF/OF Drew Sutton off waivers from Tampa Bay. He will report to the team later in the week. The Pirates also recalled RHP Bryan Morris before the game and optioned INF Jordy Mercer to Triple-A Indianapolis. ... The Tigers will continue their road trip with three games in Texas. RHP Rick Porcello (4-5, 4.95) will start Monday. After Sunday's game, Detroit said that LHP Drew Smyly will come off the disabled list to start on Tuesday. RHP Jacob Turner was optioned to Triple-A Toledo.