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Late rally comes up short as Tigers fall to Pirates 5-4 for 1st loss after 6-0 start

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PITTSBURGH — Brad Ausmus is an optimist, but the Detroit Tigers manager didn't get carried away even after his team mashed its way through a perfect opening week to the season.

"I wasn't expecting to go 162-0," Ausmus joked.

The Pittsburgh Pirates finally put a crooked number in Detroit's loss column, riding Gerrit Cole's right arm and home runs from Josh Harrison, Pedro Alvarez and Corey Hart to hand the Tigers a 5-4 loss on Monday.

Baseball's top-hitting team scored 47 runs while winning its first six games, but was held in check until a late rally against Pittsburgh closer Mark Melancon fell just short. Detroit failed to match the 7-0 start set by the 1984 team that rolled to a World Series title.

The Tigers managed just one run out of a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the seventh and scored three times against Melancon in the ninth before pinch-hitter Victor Martinez struck out to end it.

"We had a little bit of an opportunity in the seventh and we weren't able to continue it," Ausmus said. "Then the last inning, obviously we had the heart of our order, right where you want to be against the back-end of their bullpen. That's as good as a chance as possible being down four runs."

Cole (1-0) struck out eight and walked two while giving up just three hit as the Pirates won their second straight home opener.

"He was throwing cheese," Detroit catcher Alex Avila said. "Hitting 97, 98, a couple of breaking balls, changeup. Spotting up, sinking the ball. He was lights out."

Anibal Sanchez (1-1) couldn't quite keep up, surrendering five runs in 6 1-3 innings, including home runs to Pedro Alvarez and Corey Hart in the seventh to give Pittsburgh some needed breathing room.

"I just tried to keep the score close and waited for the team to score some runs," Sanchez said. "Cole threw a really good ballgame. He pitched really, really well."

Miguel Cabrera went 2 for 4 with an RBI and J.D. Martinez drew the Tigers within a run with a two-run shot off Melancon.

Looking to match the start of the Kirk Gibson-led club that won 104 games and rolled to a title 31 years ago, they instead were cooled by the hard-throwing and rapidly maturing Cole.

PHOTO: Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez throws to Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen in the first inning of the Pirates home opener baseball game, Monday, April 13, 2015, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez throws to Pittsburgh Pirates' Andrew McCutchen in the first inning of the Pirates home opener baseball game, Monday, April 13, 2015, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

"Cole was good," Ausmus said. "He was really good. He was going to be tough to score against, period. We bided our time and were able to get back in the game."

Just not all the way to the front. Cole breezed through six innings, twice retiring Cabrera, before running into trouble in the seventh after loading the bases with no outs. Jared Hughes came in to protect a 2-0 lead. His first pitched turned into a double play by Nick Castellanos and his third was a harmless popup by Avila.

"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."

Alvarez then led off the bottom of the seventh with a homer to center and Hart followed three batters later with a drive to the bleachers in left field with a two-run shot for his 1,000th career hit to make it 5-1.

CRUSING CABRERA

Cabrera's two hits actually forced his average to "dip" to .517 on the season. He was named the American League Player of the Week earlier Monday after going 13 for 25 (.520) with two doubles, two homers and eight RBI to start the year.

"He's swung the bat extremely well," Ausmus said. "He's the best hitter in the game for a reason and he probably has a few of those awards on the mantle."

TRAINER'S ROOM

Tigers: Closer Joe Nathan's strained right flexor elbow might force Ausmus to get creative at the back end of the bullpen. Joaquin Soria is filling in until Nathan returns from the disabled list, but Ausmus indicated that if there was a save situation on Monday he would have turned to Joba Chamberlain.

Pirates: The Pirates reinstated pitcher Francisco Liriano from the paternity list and sent Casey Sadler to Triple-A Indianapolis. Liriano is scheduled to start on Wednesday.

UP NEXT

Tigers: Shane Greene (1-0) makes his second start of the season on Tuesday as the three-game series continues. He tossed eight shutout innings in a win over Minnesota last Thursday. Greene is 4-0 with a 2.70 ERA in six career road starts.

Pirates: A.J. Burnett makes his first start in Pittsburgh as a Pirate since 2013. He pitched 5 1-3 innings while getting a no decision against Cincinnati last Thursday. The 38-year-old Burnett is 14-12 with a 2.76 ERA in 35 career starts at PNC Park.

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