PITTSBURGH (AP) - Jim Leyland watched the Detroit Tigers hit three straight doubles in the fourth inning on Saturday against the Pittsburgh Pirates and thought maybe, just maybe, his team's offensive woes were in the rearview mirror.
The Tigers' bats went lifeless when it mattered as Detroit dropped its fifth straight in a 6-2 loss.
``We're making it tough for our pitchers right now,' Leyland said. ``Everything is life and death for them because they have no cushion.'
Even Max Scherzer's presence on the mound couldn't shake the Tigers out of their funk.
The right-hander entered the game tied for the American League-lead in wins and was dominant in the middle of the game. Scherzer (6-1) retired 10 consecutive batters during one stretch but lost for the first time this season after tiring in the sixth as a 2-0 lead evaporated.
``I wish I would have executed better within the strike zone, especially with men on base,' Scherzer said. ``I didn't finish hitters off. I gave them a chance to execute and get some big hits and sac flies and they did.'
An RBI single by Garrett Jones and sacrifice flies by Neil Walker and Lyle Overbay gave the Pirates the lead. They added three more runs in the seventh, highlighted by a two-run single by Matt Diaz.
``All I knew is if I didn't hit it back to the pitcher, I'd be OK,' said Diaz, who helped the Pirates tack on an extra run later in the inning by extending a rundown long enough to allow teammate Jose Tabata to score.
The victory helped Pittsburgh match its entire 2010 win total in interleague play. The Pirates went a woeful 2-13 against National League teams last year, including an 0-3 mark against the Tigers.
Yet Hurdle has urged his team to forget about the past, and the Pirates have proven to be pluckier so far than the team that lost 105 games a year ago.
The win lifted Pittsburgh's record to 22-23, a solid if not spectacular start for team that hasn't posted a winning season since Leyland led the Pirates to the NL East title nearly 20 years ago.
Leyland fondly remembers his time in Pittsburgh. His present isn't so hot.
The Tigers appeared to be rolling after ripping off seven wins earlier this month. They've backed it up with five losses in which they've scored eight runs.
Detroit came in mired in a 2-for-31 slump with runners in scoring position, but hit three doubles in the fourth to jump in front.
``I thought maybe we would get something going,' Leyland said. ``We three doubles in one inning to score two runs and I thought maybe that would us out of it a little bit.'
Detroit put two men on in the seventh to chase starter Kevin Correia and Austin Jackson drilled a fastball from Pittsburgh reliever Jose Veras. He just hit it to straight center field, where Andrew McCutchen caught it on the warning track to end the inning.
The Tigers had one last chance in the ninth after loading the bases with no outs.
Pittsburgh closer Joel Hanrahan, however, struck out Ryan Raburn looking then got Jackson to hit into a game-ending double play to put Pittsburgh in a position to sweep an interleague series for the first time since taking three games from Cleveland in 2001.
``Max did his job,' Leyland said. ``We scored two runs. That's obviously been a problem for us and we didn't shut it down because the add on-run were a disaster.'
It was also a boon to Correia, who finally picked up his first win as a Pirate at PNC Park. He'd struggled in three previous starts this spring at the quirky, hitter-friendly stadium, going 0-3 with a 6.50 ERA.
There were no such issues in front of a rare sellout crowd. Correia (6-4) limited Detroit to two runs over 6 2-3 innings, striking out four.
``I did some stuff better today and some stuff wasn't that great,' Correia said. ``I felt like I threw the ball well and I'm glad I hung in there long enough for our offense to really jump around.'
McCutchen went 3 for 4 and scored twice for Pittsburgh, who has won four straight for the first time since last September.
``The guys are feeling it,' Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. ``There's a little bit of less anxiety in the dugout. Even when we were down 2-0 there was some calmness.'
NOTES: Detroit's Jackson went 0 for 5 to end his 12-game hitting streak. ... Though his team's offense is struggling, Leyland opted to sit Detroit's Victor Martinez. The team's normal designated hitter caught just his ninth game of the season on Friday. Martinez leads the Tigers with a .313 average. He grounded out as a pinch hitter in the eighth . ... Veras made the first plate appearance of his career in the seventh and ended up walking on four pitches and later scored on the double by Diaz.
The Associated Press News Service
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