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American League Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, May 19th (All times eastern)

Pittsburgh Pirates (18-21) at Detroit Tigers (19-20), 4:05 p.m.

Probable Starting Pitchers: Pittsburgh - A.J. Burnett (1-2, 5.12) Detroit - Drew Smyly (1-0, 2.31)

(Sports Network) - A day after narrowly avoiding becoming another victim to a Justin Verlander no-hitter, the Pittsburgh Pirates will try to get in the win column in the second contest of the three-game interleague series at Comerica Park versus the Detroit Tigers.

It wasn't until there was one out in the top of the ninth inning that the Pirates finally got a hit when Josh Harrison looped a Verlander curveball just over second base for a single to break up the no-hit bid. It would have been the third no-hitter of the 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner's career.

Verlander's final numbers were still stellar as he went the full nine innings, allowing just the Harrison single while striking out 12.

"There's a lot of guys that came close ... but I did what I needed to do tonight," said Verlander. "We lost a couple. We needed to win this one get off on the right foot."

Charlie Morton was less successful, allowing four runs on nine hits over six innings of work for Pittsburgh.

Delmon Young highlighted Detroit's offense effort that had four players drive in a run. Young went 2-for-4 with three RBI, including his second home run of the season. Prince Fielder, Miguel Cabrera and Don Kelly each had RBI for the Tigers as well.

The win allowed Detroit to pick up a game on the first-place Cleveland Indians in the AL Central Standings after a week in which the Tigers dropped a two- game series to last-place Minnesota.

Pittsburgh is still in the middle of a tightly packed NL Central Division after losing for the third time in four games.

Drew Smyly, a 2010 first-round selection by the Tigers, will take the mound for Detroit in Saturday's bout coming off his worst start of his career.

The left-hander was pulled after just 69 pitches and five innings at the White Sox in which he allowed four runs on five hits, including a pair of home runs. Previously Smyly had been tough on opposing batters, allowing one run or fewer in five of his first six starts.

Despite the struggles last time out Smyly has been a reliable starter this season for Detroit with the American League's third best earned run average (2.31) while also striking out nearly one batter per inning (38 K's in 39.0 innings pitched).

That type of success has not translated into lofty numbers for Smyly's record as he is just 1-0 this season, the lone win coming back on April 28th against the New York Yankees.

A.J. Burnett will be making his first start against AL competition since being traded from the Yankees to the Pirates in February. Burnett spent six years in the AL, split between Toronto and New York, where he accumulated an overall record of 72-61 with an ERA of 4.39. Burnett has struggled in the past few seasons with an ERA over five in each of the last two years.

The Pirates hoped that a return to the NL, where Burnett went 49-50 with a 3.73 ERA over eight years with the Marlins, would get him back to form but thus far this season that has been primarily the case.

Although Burnett's numbers may say differently (1-2, 5.12 ERA) the right- hander has been a reliable starter this season for the Pirates. What has inflated his ERA is an abysmal start on May 2nd in which he allowed 12 runs on 12 hits over just 2 2/3 innings pitched against St. Louis.

In two starts since Burnett has pitched 16 innings, allowing just four runs and striking out 14, and in the two starts previous he was even better with two runs scattered over 13 innings along with 15 strikeouts.

Burnett will be trying to erase bad memories from Comerica Park where he has a a career 7.17 ERA in four starts.

Last season these teams met three times in Pittsburgh, with the Pirates taking two of three in the series.

05/19 10:33:01 ET