On a night the Pirates rolled out Ryan Vogelsong, A.J. Schugel and Cory Luebke, it was actually Arquimedes Caminero who gave up the big hit, and the offense fell flat for most of the night in a 7-3 loss to Detroit on Wednesday.
Things started off well enough for the Pirates. John Jaso and David Freese each singled, then Tigers starter Shane Greene walked Starling Marte to load the bases and Francisco Cervelli to plate Jaso. A fielder's choice scored another run, and the Pirates were up 2-0 after one inning.
Greene settled in after that, though, allowing just two baserunners (both Freese, actually) in his next five innings, finishing with seven strikeouts and three walks.
Vogelsong picked up four strikeouts in the first two innings -- Tigers batters looked a bit unhappy with the low strikes Greene would start to pick up, too. He had a shaky fourth inning, giving up a solo home run to Ian Kinsler, then two more hits, including a J.D. Martinez book-rule double that would have likely scored Justin Upton had it stayed in play. With those two on, Jarrod Saltalamacchia flew out to the warning track in right-center to end the inning.
Vogelsong managed a clean fifth, finishing with five strikeouts, no walks and four hits allowed, and gave way to Caminero for the sixth.
Caminero quickly got two outs, but things unraveled quickly. Miguel Cabrera doubled, Martinez walked and Nick Castellanos singled to load the bases. Saltalamacchia got a little more of the first pitch he saw from Caminero, depositing it into the right-field seats for a grand slam and a 5-2 Tigers lead.
The Pirates pulled back within two, 5-3, when walk machine Sean Rodriguez reached, then scored on Andrew McCutchen's double that missed clearing the left-field wall by a few inches.
Luebke couldn't get through the top of the ninth, loading the bases before Clint Hurdle had to call on Neftali Feliz.
Freese went 2-for-3 with a walk, and McCutchen, who struck out three times, looked just fine when he smoked his double to left.
The pitching staff looks thin right now, though, and, as early as it is, I can't say those concerns are unfounded. The Pirates have already had to dip into the well for a Vogelsong start and the soft underbelly of the bullpen is being exposed. The bullpen will work itself out in time and it appears Francisco Liriano's issue is short-term. Rotation depth seems like it won't be an issue (knock on wood) later in the season, so if the Pirates can pull out a few of these not-all-that-bad starts from guys they may not need in September, it won't be that bad.