PITTSBURGH (AP) — For Russell Martin, it was all about staying positive.
The Pittsburgh Pirates catcher remained optimistic when the Detroit Tigers were seemingly putting runners on base in every inning. And he was still looking on the bright side when he stepped to the plate with a chance to win the game despite having already struck out three times.
Martin hit a bases-loaded single off the left-center wall in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Pirates a 1-0 victory over the Tigers on Thursday night.
“You’ve got to believe you can do it,” Martin said. “If you think you’re going to fail then you’re probably going to fail. It’s all a matter of having a positive attitude and believing in yourself. Our whole team is like that right now.”
Neil Walker opened the inning with a sharp single to right off Luke Putkonen (1-1) and Andrew McCutchen walked. Gaby Sanchez loaded the bases by bouncing a single through the left side of the infield.
Martin then ripped a 2-1 pitch into the gap to give the Pirates (34-20) their 16th win in 20 games.
Martin came into the game having gone 4 for 29 in his previous eight games. However, he singled in the ninth inning and wound up with a multi-hit game.
“The great thing about Russell is he never takes his offense behind the plate,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said “He struck out his first three times up tonight yet he went right back behind the plate and it was all about the pitcher. That’s why it was so good to see him come through at the end.”
The Tigers left 11 runners on base in losing their third straight.
“Baseball is always a hard game and tonight it was really hard,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “That’s what I always say, on-base percentage is great but the biggest thing is you need to drive those guys on base in. We had a hard time with that tonight. We’ve had a hard time with that the last few days.
Detroit was shut out by the Pirates for the second time in three days as Jeff Locke and five relievers combined on a nine-hitter. Bryan Morris (3-2) pitched a scoreless inning to finish.
“You know how good the Tigers’ offense is, one of the best in baseball,” Walker said. “You feel like you’re playing with a ticking time bomb when they don’t score but you can’t give enough credit to our pitching staff. They got so many big outs in this game.”
Detroit starter Doug Fister struck out 12 in seven innings and allowed four hits. Miguel Cabrera hit two doubles for the Tigers, including the 400th of his career.
Fister came in with a 5.20 ERA in five May starts after going 4-0 with a 2.38 ERA in five starts in April.
“I felt like I was executing well,” Fister said. “I was able to keep the ball down, move the ball in and out and make them hit the ball on the ground, which is the name of my game.”
Both teams failed to cash in on consecutive outstanding scoring opportunities in the middle innings.
Pittsburgh hit three singles in a row to start the fourth and Detroit had four consecutive singles to start the fifth.
Walker led off the Pirates’ fourth with a single but was caught stealing at second base. McCutchen and Garrett Jones then singled to put runners on the corners but were stranded when Martin struck out and Travis Snider lined out.
In the Tigers’ fifth, Matt Tuiasosopo and Bryan Pena hit back-to-back singles but Tuiasosopo was thrown out at home by Snider, the right fielder, while trying to score on Avasail Garcia’s single.
Fister then singled to load the bases, but Omar Infante hit a grounder to third baseman Brandon Inge, who threw home to force Pena for the second out. Andy Dirks grounded out to end the inning, leaving the bases loaded.
Detroit missed more chances.
The Tigers had runners on first and second with one out in the sixth when Vin Mazzaro relieved Locke and struck out Tuiasosopo and got Pena to ground out.
Mazzaro escaped a first-and-third jam with one out in the seventh by getting Dirks to pop out and Cabrera to ground out.
After Infante doubled with two outs in the ninth, McCutchen, the center fielder, tracked down Dirks’ drive to the gap in right-center to end the inning.
“It goes back to the staples of pitching we’ve been talking about since the start of spring training,” Hurdle said. “Have intent with every pitch and have conviction with every pitch and execution will follow. Our guys really executed and we were able to hold a very good team off the board for 11 innings, which is something we can feel good about.”
NOTES: Detroit RF Torii Hunter sat out with a bruised left elbow, which he injured Wednesday night when he was hit by a pitch from Morris. Hunter will miss games Friday and Saturday at Baltimore to attend his son’s high school graduation in Texas, but expects to play Sunday against the Orioles. … Tigers SS Jhonny Peralta was ejected in the top of the fourth inning by home plate umpire Manny Gonzalez for arguing a called third strike. Peralta went 0 for 2, ending his 10-game hitting streak. … Pittsburgh 3B Pedro Alvarez was not at the ballpark Thursday after having dental surgery earlier in the day to remove two wisdom teeth. … LHP Wandy Rodriguez (6-2, 3.58) will pitch for the Pirates against Cincinnati RHP Johnny Cueto (2-0, 2.76) on Friday night in the opener of a three-game home series. … Detroit RHP Max Scherzer (7-0, 3.42) will face Baltimore RHP Miguel Gonzalez (2-2, 3.94) in the opener of that three-game series.