PITTSBURGH – Justin Verlander’s right shoulder is sore but not in tatters.
The Detroit Tigers are hoping the same goes for their suddenly challenging season.
Hours after learning the Cy Young winner likely needs rest and not surgery after complaining of a bum shoulder, the Tigers fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 on Tuesday night. Detroit has lost six of seven while falling behind streaking Kansas City for the lead in the AL Central.
“We’ve got to make our own opportunities,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “We’ve got to take advantage of those opportunities and we’re not doing that.”
Robbie Ray (1-2) gave up four runs in five-plus innings while making a spot start. He received little help from an offense that managed just seven hits.
The Tigers had runners on first and second with one out in the ninth against Pittsburgh closer Mark Melancon but pinch hitter Torii Hunter flew out to right and Rajai Davis grounded out to third as Melancon collected his 22nd save as the Tigers wrapped up a nine-game road trip with a miserable 2-7 mark.
“We’ve got hits at times but we haven’t scored runs,” Ausmus said. “We’ve got to find a way to drive runners in. It’s not one person’s fault, it’s the entire team’s fault.”
Detroit’s best chance to jump on Edinson Volquez (10-7) came early.
Ian Kinsler drove home Ezequiel Carrera with an RBI-single in the first and Miguel Cabrera followed with a single to put runners at the corners with one out. Victor Martinez smashed a grounder up the middle that Volquez somehow grabbed with his glove while reaching behind his back. Kinsler was tagged out in a rundown between third and home and the big inning was avoided.
“The ball got me,” Volquez said. “I got lucky on that one.”
Volquez struck out five and walked two against five hits to improve to 6-1 in his last seven decisions. Travis Snider went 2 for 4 with an RBI for the Pirates. Gaby Sanchez and Ike Davis added RBI doubles and Jordy Mercer chipped in a run-scoring single.
The Pirates signed Volquez to a one-year deal worth $5 million in the offseason. At the moment, it looks like a bargain. He hasn’t missed a start and has been the team’s best starter over the last six weeks as the Pirates have climbed back into the thick of the playoff hunt.
Pittsburgh’s offense, which broke out of a weekend slump by pounding the Tigers for 11 runs in a win on Monday, responded yet again. Sanchez and Snider delivered consecutive RBI doubles in the second off Roy to put the Pirates in front.
Mercer drove home Josh Harrison in the third to make it 3-1. Avila hit a long home run to center to pull Detroit within one but pinch hitter Ike Davis doubled to the gap in right-center to score Starling Marte and push the lead to 4-2.