Tigers lose to Pirates

DETROIT — Drew VerHagen, the Detroit Tigers starter Thursday, looked down at the dirt, his shoulders slumped, and then dared glance toward right field. At the plate, Josh Bell dropped the bat behind him and tracked the flight of his two-run home run until crashed 20 rows deep in the bleachers.

Bell’s blast, the 20th home run of his rookie season, snapped a third-inning tie and provided separation in the Pirates’ 7-5 win at Comerica Park. The game ball belonged to Bell, who had a sacrifice fly, a homer, a bloop single and three RBIs.

The Pirates (57-58) have won six of their past eight games. They took three of four games in the home-and-home series against Detroit (52-62) and travel next to Toronto for a three-game weekend series against the Blue Jays.

Right-hander Gerrit Cole (10-8) put his foot down. He settled in after allowing two runs in the first inning to throw eight innings of three-run baseball. The Tigers managed just six hits off Cole, three of which came in the opening frame. He walked one and struck out seven, using just 102 pitches.

In a getaway game the day after scraping together just three hits, the Pirates totaled 13 hits Thursday. Starling Marte, Gregory Polanco and Sean Rodriguez, who homered, had two hits apiece. Adam Frazier was 3 for 5 with a single, double, triple and two RBIs. He is batting .407 since the All-Star break.

Bell, who had two of the Pirates’ three hits Wednesday and two more Thursday, has shown defensive dependability at first base as well as durability this season. He has played in all but one of the Pirates’ 115 games, sitting July 4 in Philadelphia, and his .255 batting average is his highest mark since May 19.

With the long third-inning home run, which was estimated at 436 feet, Bell became the third Pirates switch-hitter with at least 20 homers in a season, joining Bobby Bonilla (who did it three times) and Neil Walker. The Major League record for most home runs by a switch-hitting rookie is 27, set by Hall of Famer Eddie Murray in 1977 and matched by Tony Clark in 1996.

Bell also is the fourth Pirates rookie to reach the 20-homer mark, preceded by Ralph Kiner, Garrett Jones and Johnny Rizzo. His 45 extra bases this season are second among Pirates rookies to Andrew McCutchen, who had 47 in 2009.

The Tigers fell to the Pirates on Thursday.

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Posted by John Raffel

John is a sports reporter with the Pioneer as well as the Herald Review and The Lake County Star. He also coordinates the weekly Pioneer sports outdoors page. He can be reached at (231) 592-8356 or by email at jraffel@pioneergroup.com.

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