DETROIT — At times, Andrew McCutchen looks like the only threatening hitter in the entire Pittsburgh lineup.
And on some days, his power alone is enough to give the Pirates a win.
McCutchen hit a pair of two-run homers and A.J. Burnett pitched six solid innings to lead Pittsburgh to a 4-3 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Saturday.
A day after Detroit’s Justin Verlander took a no-hitter into the ninth while shutting out the Pirates, McCutchen struck back with his second multihomer game in three days.
“I really wouldn’t say I had real tough at-bats against Verlander. I had some decent at-bats, but he just got the best of me,” McCutchen said. “You just show up tomorrow and get ‘em the next day.”
McCutchen certainly did that against Tigers rookie Drew Smyly (1-1). It was the sixth career multihomer game for McCutchen, who has seven home runs on the season.
Pittsburgh is hitting .218 as a team, but McCutchen is at a lofty .346 and establishing himself as one of the game’s best outfielders.
On Thursday night, he homered twice in a win at Washington.
“We joke in the dugout, ‘Why do you throw this guy a strike?’” Burnett said. “But some pitches he’s hitting are good pitches too, so it just shows you what kind of player Cutch is.”
Prince Fielder hit a two-run homer for the Tigers, who stranded 10 runners, but struck out swinging with a man on first to end it.
Burnett (2-2) allowed two runs and seven hits before three relievers finished it off, with Joel Hanrahan pitching a hitless ninth inning for his ninth save.
Josh Harrison, who broke up Verlander’s no-hit bid Friday night, also had Pittsburgh’s first hit off Smyly on a bunt single in the first. McCutchen followed with a long homer to left-center.
After Fielder tied it in the third with his seventh homer, McCutchen connected again in the fifth, hitting an opposite-field shot to right after Harrison had been hit by a pitch.
Burnett, meanwhile, outdueled Smyly in a matchup of Arkansans on the mound. Both are from the Little Rock area.
Burnett was traded to the Pirates at the start of spring training and hurt himself almost immediately when he fouled a ball off his right eye during a bunting drill. Now healthy, he’s given his new team some quality performances.
Against St. Louis on May 2, he allowed 12 runs in 2 2-3 innings, but in his other five starts, he’s gone 2-1 with a 2.06 ERA. It’s an encouraging trend for Burnett after three erratic years with the New York Yankees.
“I feel comfortable being a Pittsburgh Pirate,” Burnett said. “I just feel like I can be more myself, and do more of the things I want to do on the mound, and have fun.”
Smyly allowed four runs and seven hits in 4 2-3 innings. It was the shortest start for the left-hander since he went four-plus innings in his big league debut April 12.
The Tigers have not won back-to-back games since their 9-3 start, and they failed to build on Verlander’s gem. After falling behind on McCutchen’s second homer, Detroit got a run back in the seventh on a passed ball by Pittsburgh catcher Rod Barajas, but Alex Avila struck out with the tying run on second to end that inning.
Brennan Boesch hit a leadoff single in the bottom of the eighth, but Jhonny Peralta struck out and Ramon Santiago lined into a double play.
“It looks like some of the guys are beginning to swing better,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “We’ve got to have some timely two-out hits.”
NOTES: Leyland was still gushing Saturday after Verlander’s one-hitter the previous night. “I’ve never seen a better-pitched game than that one last night — never,” Leyland said. … Pittsburgh RHP Jeff Karstens (right shoulder inflammation) is scheduled to pitch Monday for Double-A Altoona as part of a rehab assignment. … Boesch extended his hitting streak to 12 games. … The teams honored the Negro Leagues by wearing the uniforms of the Detroit Stars and Pittsburgh Crawfords. … The Pirates are 19-8 when scoring two or more runs. … McCutchen is 10 for his last 15 against left-handers and is 18 for 40 against them on the season. … Detroit’s Max Scherzer (2-3) takes the mound against Pittsburgh’s Kevin Correia (1-4) in the series finale Sunday.