Tigers, Pirates meet in rubber match of three-game set

MLB

The Detroit Tigers finish off a three-game home series against Pittsburgh on Thursday.

Jonathan Schoop hopes his early-season slump ended on Wednesday.

Schoop blasted his first homer of the season in the second game of a split doubleheader, a 5-2 Detroit win that snapped a five-game losing streak. Schoop also had an RBI single in the first game, which Pittsburgh won 3-2.

Schoop, who has played both first and second base this season, was batting .163 with two RBIs in 14 games entering the doubleheader. He nudged his average to .182 with the two hits.

“We need Jonathan to be a contributor,” manager A.J. Hinch said. “There was maybe a five-week buildup of frustration that was taken out on that ball that went out of the ballpark in left field.”

Schoop, who re-signed with Detroit as a free agent, knew his bat would heat up.

“You’ve got to find a way to not let it bother you,” he said. “The struggle is always going to be there. You just work hard and try to minimize the struggle. Never let it break you. If you let it break you, then it’s going to last a lot longer.”

Right-hander Jose Urena will start the series finale for the Tigers. Urena struggled through his first two starts, then tossed seven strong innings at Oakland on Friday. He struck out a career-high eight batters while allowing just two runs in his longest start since May 2019.

“Over the course of his career, he’s been a strike thrower,” Hinch said. “He attacks the strike zone with a pretty good slider and high-end velocity and he’s able to log innings because of that. We hadn’t seen a ton of that so far in the first couple of starts. So to see him come into the game pretty cleanly and be able to navigate his innings … it was vintage Jose Urena.”

Urena (0-3, 5.52 ERA) uncharacteristically walked nine batters over his first two outings but only issued two against the A’s.

He’s faced the Pirates seven times in his career, including three starts, posting a 1-3 record and 8.18 ERA.

He’ll be opposed by Mitch Keller (1-2, 8.74), who has not gone past the fifth inning in any of his three starts this season. The right-hander will be aiming for a career-high second victory in what will be his 20th start in three seasons.

Keller allowed four runs in five innings in his only career start against Pittsburgh on June 18, 2019 — his third career start.

He is coming off a rough start against San Diego last Thursday, when he lasted just 3 1/3 innings and gave up seven runs and nine hits in an 8-3 loss.

Phillip Evans was the Pirates’ top offensive player in the first two games of the Tigers series thus far, contributing two hits and a run scored in the opener and a solo homer in the second game.

Pittsburgh added another outfield option on Wednesday, claiming Ka’ai Tom off waivers from Oakland.

“We know, over time, we want to improve our outfield, and we want to give guys a chance to be part of that,” general manager Ben Cherington said.

–Field Level Media

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