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Published: Sunday, 5/20/2012

Smyly finds a rough patch

Tigers rookie gets knocked around by lowly Pirates just enough for loss

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Detroit's Drew Smyly allowed four earned runs in 4⅔ innings pitched, striking out six in the loss. Detroit's Drew Smyly allowed four earned runs in 4⅔ innings pitched, striking out six in the loss.
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DETROIT -- Drew Smyly is finally facing a bit of a bugaboo after a promising start to his rookie season.

The last two times he's taken the mound, the young left-hander has given up a pair of two-run homers in each outing.

Andrew McCutchen did the damage Saturday, going deep twice to lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to a 4-3 win over Smyly and the Detroit Tigers.

"He got the ball up a little bit too much and he paid for it," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "Both the balls to McCutchen were way up."

A day after Detroit's Justin Verlander took a no-hitter into the ninth inning while shutting out the Pirates, McCutchen struck back against Smyly (1-1). It was McCutchen's sixth career multihomer game and second in three days.

Prince Fielder hit a two-run homer for the Tigers, who stranded 10 runners, but struck out swinging with a man on first to end it.

Pittsburgh's A.J. Burnett (2-2) allowed two runs and seven hits before three relievers finished it off, with Joel Hanrahan pitching a hitless ninth for his ninth save.

Josh Harrison, who broke up Verlander's no-hit bid Friday night, also had Pittsburgh's first hit off Smyly on a bunt single in the first. McCutchen followed with a long homer to left-center.

After Fielder tied it in the third with his seventh homer, McCutchen connected again in the fifth, hitting an opposite-field shot to right after Harrison had been hit by a pitch.

Smyly's ERA is still an impressive 2.89, but he also allowed two homers against the Chicago White Sox on Monday.

"I've had two mediocre-at-best outings in a row, but still, I don't feel like I'm getting hit around," Smyly said. "McCutchen's good. He had the best of me today."

Burnett, meanwhile, outdueled Smyly in a matchup of Arkansans on the mound. Both are from the Little Rock area, and Burnett said he'd likely meet Smyly on Sunday.

"It was good to see him throw," Burnett said. "Obviously, he's been pitching well, and he had a good demeanor today. He gave up a couple home runs -- really his only bad mistakes he made. As far as mound presence and the way he went about his business, he showed why he's up here."

Burnett was traded to the Pirates at the start of spring training and hurt himself almost immediately when he fouled a ball off his right eye during a bunting drill. Now healthy, he's given his new team some quality performances.

Against St. Louis on May 2, he allowed 12 runs in 2⅔ innings, but in his other five starts, he's gone 2-1 with a 2.06 ERA.

Smyly allowed four runs and seven hits in 4⅔ innings. It was his shortest start since he went four-plus innings in his big league debut April 12.

The Tigers have not won back-to-back games since their 9-3 start, and they failed to build on Verlander's gem. After falling behind on McCutchen's second homer, Detroit got a run back in the seventh on a passed ball by Pittsburgh catcher Rod Barajas, but Alex Avila struck out with the tying run on second to end that inning.

Brennan Boesch hit a leadoff single in the bottom of the eighth, but Jhonny Peralta struck out and Ramon Santiago lined into a double play.

NOTES: Leyland was still gushing after Verlander's one-hitter the previous night. "I've never seen a better-pitched game than that one last night -- never," Leyland said. ... Boesch extended his hitting streak to 12 games. ... The teams honored the Negro Leagues by wearing the uniforms of the Detroit Stars and Pittsburgh Crawfords. ... McCutchen is 10 for his last 15 against left-handers and is 18 for 40 against them on the season. ... Detroit's Max Scherzer (2-3) takes the mound against Pittsburgh's Kevin Correia (1-4) in the series finale today.



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