Comerica Park is not known as a home run park, but the Pirates loaded up and launched four canon shots into the seats tonight. Three of them came in the eighth off of Joba Chamberlain, the other came in the third and ignited a five-run outburst.
The right side of the Pirates infield delivered three of the four home runs, an area of the field from which Clint Hurdle has recently discussed looking for some more power production.
"They're good hitters," Hurdle said of Neil Walker and Pedro Alvarez. "When they stay with their approach and hit pitches they want to hit, I definitely believe the [power] is going to happen."
Walker has a day
Including his game-winning double early in the morning, Walker went 5-for-7, with three runs scored, four RBIs, one double and two home runs on Wednesday. It was a fitting start to what has been his most productive month over the course of his career.
"He swung the bat so well tonight. Actually, it started early this morning and carried into today," Hurdle said. "He's had some history here. He's had some history in July. It adds another dimension to our offense when he gets rolling."
"I tend to play better later in the year and I'm working towards getting myself in a position to get my swing off most consistently," Walker said. "That's something I haven't done in the first part of the season. That is something that I'm going to make a very concerted effort in."
Lots and lots of hits
The Pirates wore out Tigers pitching with 21 hits tonight, the first time they've collected that many hits in a game since May 13, 2004 against the Rockies. Even more interesting/impressive is this nugget from Jayson Stark:
Box score line alert! Alfredo Simon's all-timer vs Reds: 5 2/3 IP 15 H 6 R 6 ER 0 BB 7 K. First in live-ball era w 15 H & 7+ K in under 6 IP— Jayson Stark (@jaysonst) July 2, 2015
Not to be overlooked in the offensive barrage
A.J. Burnett put together another fine start. He allowed only two runs over seven innings against a very potent Tigers lineup. He struck out four and didn't allow a walk.
"He navigated through very tough lineup," Hurdle said. "24 out of 29 first pitch strikes. He made quality pitches all night long ... Just very, very acute with his pitches. Very focused with his pitches. Just a really strong performance from him."
Most impressively, he once again did not allow a home run. He's only allowed three homers this season, which ties him for least amongst qualified starters. Moreover, his HR/FB rate now drops to 4.2 percent, best amongst qualified pitchers.
Asked if he was aware of just how good he's been at avoiding long balls, Burnett joked: "I wasn't until you asked me. Now I am."
Burnett went on to explain that key to keeping the ball in the park is working his sinker down in the zone.
"We've all seen that when it gets thigh high it gets hit," Burnett said. "When it's knee high, it's hit to these guys in the infield. I had a good sinker down in the zone today, so I was just trying to keep them driving it into the ground and make these guys work. Anytime the ball is on the ground you got a better chance than when the ball is in the air."
Walker and Cervelli dinged
Walker said he was just a little "discombobulated" after getting hit by Miguel Cabrera as he crossed first base on an infield single in the sixth.
Francisco Cevelli entered the clubhouse with a bandaged right hand following the game. Hurdle said that he thinks his catcher is going to fine and that the ball just "bit him in the hand" while trying to block a pitch in the dirt.