By Will Graves
Pedro Alvarez’s two-run double sparked a seventh-inning rally and the Pittsburgh Pirates beat the Detroit Tigers 5-3 on Wednesday night.
Travis Snider added an RBI double and Jordy Mercer laid down a perfect suicide squeeze as the Pirates erupted late against Anibal Sanchez (5-5) and scored four times.
Miguel Cabrera hit his 15th homer of the season for Detroit. He flied out to the right-field wall with a runner on to end the game as Pittsburgh beat the Tigers for the second straight night.
Bryan Morris (2-2) picked up the win in relief of A.J. Burnett. Jason Grilli pitched the ninth for his major league-leading 22nd save.
Sanchez cruised through the first six innings, surrendering only a solo home run to Neil Walker. Things unraveled in the seventh as the Pirates batted around.
Sanchez tossed his fourth career one-hitter in his previous start, an easy 6-0 romp over Minnesota last week. He kept rolling early against the Pirates, who have struggled to score when Burnett starts.
Walker — whose solo home run in the 11th inning produced the only run in a 1-0 Pittsburgh victory in Detroit on Tuesday night — provided the only two hits off Sanchez through the first six innings.
Sanchez retired 16 of 17 batters at one point and appeared to have all the cushion he needed when Andy Dirks doubled home Don Kelly with one out in the fifth and Cabrera followed two batters later by poking a 92 mph fastball from Burnett into the seats in right field, giving the Tigers a 3-1 lead.
Andrew McCutchen lined out to start the bottom of the seventh when suddenly Sanchez’s command disappeared.
Garrett Jones singled and Russell Martin walked on four pitches. Alvarez followed by driving a ball to the wall in left-center, scoring both runners. Snider took the next pitch and hit it off the wall in right with Alvarez just beating the relay throw to put Pittsburgh in front.
Snider moved to third on a wild pitch, then darted home when Mercer’s bunt stopped just in front of the pitcher’s mound.
Sanchez allowed five runs on seven hits in 6 2-3 innings, walking one and striking out nine while his ERA rose from 2.38 to 2.79.
Pittsburgh’s late surge allowed Burnett to escape his fourth straight loss. The Pirates have struggled to support their ace this season and had scored just five runs total in his previous five starts.
The right-hander had issues with his command but managed to stay out of trouble until the fifth, when Kelly’s leadoff walk started a three-run burst. Burnett gave up three runs on five hits, walking four and striking out four.
Burnett was long gone by the time Alvarez got things going. Tony Watson worked the eighth and Grilli — who struck out the Tigers in order in the 11th on Tuesday — stayed a perfect 22 for 22 in save chances when Cabrera flied out.
NOTES: Detroit CF Austin Jackson is likely heading to Triple-A Toledo this weekend while he recovers from an injured left hamstring that’s had him on the disabled list since May 12. Detroit manager Jim Leyland said he’d like to test Jackson’s hamstring before activating him ... A Pirates season ticket holder provided Grilli with a fish tank that includes three small sharks and a blowfish. Grilli and setup man Mark Melancon have nicknamed Pittsburgh’s bullpen the “Shark Tank.” ... The Pirates are 24-1 this season when leading after seven innings.
... The series concludes on Thursday. Pittsburgh’s Jeff Locke (5-1, 2.45 ERA) will look for his sixth straight victory. Doug Fister (5-2, 3.65 ERA) starts for the Tigers.