PITTSBURGH – Bases loaded. No outs. A two-run lead against baseball's top-hitting team in serious jeopardy. There really wasn't much mystery about what was coming from Pittsburgh Pirates reliever Jared Hughes.
"You just have to pound the zone, that's the big thing," Hughes said. "The other hitters know you're going to do it, and they're probably going to be swinging."
And for once, the swings from the Detroit Tigers came up empty.
Hughes needed three pitches to bail out starter Gerrit Cole with a double play and a popup in the seventh inning and the Pirates eventually held on for a 5-4 win in their home opener on Monday, handing the Tigers their first loss of the season.
Detroit was trying to match the 7-0 start set by the 1984 club that went on to win the World Series. The Tigers managed just one run after finally getting to Cole in the top of the seventh. A rally in the ninth against Pittsburgh closer Mark Melancon came up just short.
"I wasn't expecting to go 162-0," joked Detroit manager Brad Ausmus.
The Tigers and Kansas City began the day as the last two unbeaten teams in the majors. Detroit scored 47 runs during its six straight wins to open the season but struggled to get to the hard-throwing and rapidly maturing Cole, who struck out eight and walked two while giving up only three hits.
Taken as the No. 1 overall draft pick in 2011, the righthander who led playoff runs in 2013 and 2014 looked every bit the ace-in-training in front of the largest regular-season crowd since PNC Park opened 14 years ago.
"One of the things he wants to be is a master craftsman out on the mound, and you saw that today through six, for sure," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.