PITTSBURGH — There's nothing fancy about the way Alfredo Simon does his job. The Detroit Tigers right-hander doesn't overwhelm batters with power or baffle them with deception. Instead, Simon just rears back and throws, trusting his defense to handle the bulk of the work.
"He doesn't get rattled," manager Brad Ausmus said. "I don't think his heartbeat gets up over 60 beats a minute."
Considering how easily Simon dispatched the Pittsburgh Pirates on Wednesday, overexertion was hardly necessary. Simon held Pittsburgh to two hits over eight solid innings as the Tigers held on for a 1-0 win to improve to 8-1 on the season.
"I just felt really comfortable today," Simon said. "When I was behind in counts I just tried to throw my slider for a strike, tried to throw that and tried to put the ball in play. The key was, when I was behind in the count, just try a different pitch."
Detroit won two of three in the interleague series despite scoring just seven runs. Simon (2-0) struck out only two but took advantage of solid defense behind him as the Tigers handed Pittsburgh consecutive home losses for the first time since last August.
Rajai Davis hit a leadoff homer in the sixth against Francisco Liriano (0-1) as Detroit shut out Pittsburgh for the second straight day. Joakim Soria worked a perfect ninth for his fourth save while filling in for injured Joe Nathan.
Detroit had just five hits off four Pittsburgh pitchers but received all the offense it would need when Davis hit his first home run of the season, turning on an 81 mph slider by Liriano for the 36th homer of his decade-long career.
"I did reach a little bit but I felt like off the bat I'm hoping that would go," Davis said. "It felt good off the bat."
A night after managing just three hits against Shane Greene in a 2-0 loss, the Pirates weren't any better against Simon. A surprise All-Star a year ago for Cincinnati, the beefy 33-year-old breezed through Pittsburgh's punchless lineup after surviving an eventful 5 1-3 innings in his debut with Detroit last Friday.
Simon didn't allow a hit until consecutive two-out singles by Andrew McCutchen and Neil Walker in the fourth. Starling Marte grounded into a fielders' choice to end the threat and Simon went right back to work, retiring the final 10 batters he faced the Pirates' early offensive funk grew deeper. They're batting just .207 and haven't even earned a walk since Saturday.
"We're just a tick off and sometimes a tick off is a lot at the major-league level," Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said.
Home plate umpire Jerry Layne left the game in the top of the ninth inning when an 88 mph cutter from Mark Melancon struck Layne's mask. Layne pointed to his mouth in obvious pain and the game was delayed for several minutes as the crew tried to figure out what happened. There was some apparent confusion over whether Layne called the pitch from Melancon to Miguel Cabrera a strike or ball four.
"Jerry wasn't in the best position to explain," Hurdle said. "Hunter (Wendelstedt) said 'I thought he said foul tip and he said 'chipped tooth.' He just said it was a hard conversation to have."
After a lengthy review Cabrera was awarded first base. Second-base umpire Bob Davidson called the rest of the game in Layne's place.
Tigers: Pitcher Justin Verlander's return from a strained right triceps hit a speedbump on Wednesday when he ended a simulated game early due to fatigue. Verlander threw 80 pitches total, 35 in the bullpen and another 45 on the mound. Ausmus said Verlander will likely need another simulated game or a rehab start before he's ready to be activated off the disabled list but said any decision on Verlander's status won't be made until at least Friday. ... Nathan threw batting practice on Wednesday without any issues as he works his way back from a right flexor strain.
Pirates: Pitcher Charlie Morton will make a start at extended spring training on Saturday, where he will be on a 55-pitch limit. Morton is returning from offseason hip surgery.
Tigers: David Price (1-0) takes a 21 2-3 regular season scoreless inning streak into Friday's game at the Chicago White Sox. Price hasn't given up a run in his last three regular season starts. The 29-year-old Price is 7-2 with a 2.89 ERA in 12 career games (10 starts) at Comerica Park.
Pirates: Pittsburgh gets a second look at Milwaukee when the teams open a three-game series at PNC Park on Friday. The Pirates won two of three against the Brewers on the road last week.
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