PITTSBURGH (AP) — A.J. Burnett’s “homecoming” was everything he could have hoped for. Except for taking a tough-luck loss.
The veteran right-hander allowed only one run in 6 2-3 innings but Shane Greene pitched eight strong innings and the Detroit Tigers bounced back from their first loss of the season with a 2-0 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night.
Burnett (0-1) scattered seven hits, struck out eight and walked two.
“A very efficient, a very strong outing by A.J.,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle.
A fan favorite in Pittsburgh before leaving as a free agent after the 2013 season and signing with the Philadelphia Phillies, Burnett received a warm ovation from the PNC Park crowd.
“The whole night was humbling,” Burnett said. “From people saying ‘hi’ and welcoming me back when I walked through the tunnel to the clubhouse when I got to the ballpark to all the support I got from the fans during the game. I definitely felt like I was back home again.”
The two walks cost Burnett, though, as he issued them back-to-back to Alex Avila and Jose Iglesias with one out in the seventh inning and the game scoreless.
Greene, who hadn’t stepped in a batter’s box since he was 14, struck out while unsuccessfully trying to bunt the runners up but Rajai Davis then grounded a single up the middle to score Avila.
Greene (2-0) allowed just three singles and two of them never left the infield. He had three strikeouts and no walks after the Tigers’ six-game winning streak ended on Monday with a 5-4 loss.
“Throw strikes and pound the zone” the 26-year-old right-hander said in explaining his success.
The Pirates had scored 15 runs in winning their previous two games but were shut down by Greene.
“It was three punchouts and a lot of contact but not a lot of hard contact,” Hurdle said. “We weren’t able to connect the dots.”
Greene has allowed only one unearned run in 16 innings through his first two starts of the season. Acquired from the New York Yankees in an offseason trade that also included the Arizona Diamondbacks, Greene also pitched eight innings last Thursday to beat the Minnesota Twins.
“Guys have made me feel welcome here from the beginning but it’s been a little extra special to win a couple of games,” Greene said. “I feel like I’m even more part of the team now. You want the guys to know you can contribute.”
Joakim Soria retired the side in order in the ninth inning for his third save in place of closer Joe Nathan, who is on the disabled list.
Davis and Jose Iglesias each had two hits for Detroit while Ian Kinsler added an RBI single in the ninth.
Tigers: RHP Justin Verlander, on the disabled list with a right triceps strain, will pitch a simulated game Wednesday of at least four innings and 60 pitches. Ausmus is hoping the 2011 American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner might possibly throw as many as 75 pitches.
Pirates left-hander Francisco Liriano (0-0) faces Alfredo Simon (1-0) on Wednesday night in the finale of the three-game series.
Liriano, who is 5-8 lifetime against the Tigers, has not pitched since the April 6 opener at Cincinnati while spending time on the paternity list.
Acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in a December trade, Simon won his Tigers’ debut last Friday at Cleveland. He has a 3-4 career record against the Pirates.
Hurdle was ejected in the top of the eighth inning by home plate David Rackley for arguing balls and strikes. Pittsburgh is the only team in the major leagues without a bench coach, so quality control coach Dave Jauss managed the team.