PITTSBURGH — Justin Verlander's right shoulder is sore but not in tatters.
The Detroit Tigers are hoping the same goes for their suddenly challenging season.
Hours after learning the Cy Young winner likely needs rest and not surgery after complaining of a bum shoulder, the Tigers fell to the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 on Tuesday night. Detroit has lost six of seven while falling behind streaking Kansas City for the lead in the AL Central.
"We've got to make our own opportunities," manager Brad Ausmus said. "We've got to take advantage of those opportunities and we're not doing that."
Robbie Ray (1-2) gave up four runs in five-plus innings while making a spot start. He received little help from an offense that managed just seven hits.
The Tigers had runners on first and second with one out in the ninth against Pittsburgh closer Mark Melancon but pinch hitter Torii Hunter flew out to right and Rajai Davis grounded out to third as Melancon collected his 22nd save as the Tigers wrapped up a nine-game road trip with a miserable 2-7 mark.
"We've got hits at times but we haven't scored runs," Ausmus said. "We've got to find a way to drive runners in. It's not one person's fault, it's the entire team's fault."
Detroit's best chance to jump on Edinson Volquez (10-7) came early.
Ian Kinsler drove home Ezequiel Carrera with an RBI-single in the first and Miguel Cabrera followed with a single to put runners at the corners with one out. Victor Martinez smashed a grounder up the middle that Volquez somehow grabbed with his glove while reaching behind his back. Kinsler was tagged out in a rundown between third and home and the big inning was avoided.
"The ball got me," Volquez said. "I got lucky on that one."
Volquez struck out five and walked two against five hits to improve to 6-1 in his last seven decisions. Travis Snider went 2 for 4 with an RBI for the Pirates. Gaby Sanchez and Ike Davis added RBI doubles and Jordy Mercer chipped in a run-scoring single.
The Pirates signed Volquez to a one-year deal worth $5 million in the offseason. At the moment, it looks like a bargain. He hasn't missed a start and has been the team's best starter over the last six weeks as the Pirates have climbed back into the thick of the playoff hunt.
Pittsburgh's offense, which broke out of a weekend slump by pounding the Tigers for 11 runs in a win on Monday, responded yet again. Sanchez and Snider delivered consecutive RBI doubles in the second off Roy to put the Pirates in front.
Mercer drove home Josh Harrison in the third to make it 3-1. Avila hit a long home run to center to pull Detroit within one but pinch hitter Ike Davis doubled to the gap in right-center to score Starling Marte and push the lead to 4-2.
Pirates: The team continues to take a cautious approach with right-handed starter Gerrit Cole. The former No. 1 pick, who has been on the disabled list since July 5 with a right lat injury, will start for Triple-A Indianapolis on Sunday. Cole allowed one hit in six scoreless innings in a start for Indianapolis last Sunday. Pittsburgh second baseman Neil Walker's bad back kept him out of the lineup on Tuesday, though Hurdle said Walker is making significant progress.
The interleague series between the two clubs moves to Detroit on Wednesday.
Rookie Buck Farmer will make his major league debut for the Tigers. The fifth-round pick in the 2013 draft went 10-5 with a 2.60 ERA in 18 starts for Class A West Michigan and went 1-0 in two starts with Double-A Erie.
"He's pitched very well," Tigers president and general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "He's got good stuff. Ideally, you'd have more development time. I haven't seen him myself really, maybe one start. Our guys like him."
Vance Worley (5-1, 2.30 ERA) will start for Pittsburgh. Worley is 3-0 with a 0.96 ERA in his last four starts.