DETROIT – Phillip Evans reached his glove above the fence in left field, and the ball bounced off it and back into the field of play.
Not a catch — but not a home run either.
“Maybe the play of the game,” Pittsburgh manager Derek Shelton said. “He brought back a homer, and it changes the whole complexion of the game."
Evans kept Akil Baddoo's drive in the park in the seventh inning of a tie game, and the Pirates scored twice in the eighth to beat the Detroit Tigers 4-2 on Thursday. Colin Moran and Erik González hit RBI singles with two outs in the eighth.
“We get two balls that aren’t hit very hard that decide the game,” Shelton said.
With the score tied at 2, Baddoo nearly put the Tigers ahead. He wound up with a double after Evans' near-catch, but he didn't end up scoring.
With men on first and third and one out, Sam Howard (2-1) came on and retired Robbie Grossman and Willi Castro on flyballs.
Adam Frazier had three hits for the Pirates, including a one-out single off José Cisnero (0-1) in the eighth. Frazier advanced on a wild pitch and scored on Moran's single off Gregory Soto to give Pittsburgh the lead for good.
The Pirates struck out only four times in the rubber match of this three-game series.
“They put the ball in play, and that's kind of the difference in the series,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said.
Richard Rodríguez pitched a perfect ninth for his third save, sending the Tigers to their sixth loss in seven games. In addition to Rodriguez and Howard, Duane Underwood and Chris Stratton contributed to a Pittsburgh relief effort that held the Tigers scoreless for four innings.
“Our bullpen was good again,” Shelton said. “They went right after guys. Richie finishing it off, but those guys in the middle did a heck of a job.”
JaCoby Jones hit a solo homer for Detroit in the fifth.
José Ureña allowed two runs in the first inning but held Pittsburgh scoreless for the next six. Bryan Reynolds hit an RBI single in the first, and González drove in the second run with a single of his own.
Baddoo hit an RBI triple in the second.
Mitch Keller allowed two runs in five innings for the Pirates.
For a second straight day, the teams played through snow flurries at times, although it was nothing major.
Jones made a sparkling catch in the seventh, running down Todd Frazier's drive to center and snagging it before slamming into the wall. Jones looked a little shaken up but remained in the game.
“The wind was blowing out a little bit, but usually in the cold weather, the ball doesn't fly as much to center,” Jones said. “I kind of knew it was going to stay in the park, so I knew I kind of had a chance when I saw it off the bat.”
Pirates: 3B Ke’Bryan Hayes aggravated his left wrist injury during a batting drill late Wednesday night and was sent back to Pittsburgh for further evaluation. Hayes, who went on the injured list on April 4, remains out indefinitely. With Hayes' absence extended, Pittsburgh selected the contract of Todd Frazier to the major league roster and designated OF Dustin Fowler for assignment. ... The Pirates put RHP Chad Kuhl on the 10-day IL retroactive to Monday with right shoulder discomfort and recalled RHP Geoff Hartlieb.
Pittsburgh plays at Minnesota on Friday night. JT Brubaker (2-0) starts for the Pirates against J.A. Happ (0-0).
Detroit begins a home series against Kansas City. The Tigers send Casey Mize (1-1) to the mound against Mike Minor (1-1).
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