The Detroit Tigers bested the Pittsburgh Pirates 8-7 in spring training action on Wednesday afternoon
Tigers newcomer Nick Maton was the hero on Wednesday, blasting a game-winning home run off Pirates reliever Osvaldo Bido in the bottom of the 9th. That concluded a game that featured 18 hits, eight extra-base hits, and a few balls lost in the sun, but still finished in under two-and-a-half hours.
Here’s what you need to know about the game:
Manning Ramping Up to Speed
Matt Manning looked solid in his first spring start, though there was some early concern about his velocity. Manning’s four-seam fastball averaged 93.2 MPH in 2022, which was slightly below league average. But on Wednesday afternoon his heater averaged exactly 90 MPH, and topped out at 90.9. Something to be worried about?
Manning was efficient during his outing, and he only gave up a run because Kerry Carpenter lost a fly ball in the sun. We’ll keep an eye on his velocity as spring training continues, but there’s no need to panic right now.
Strike First, Strike Hard
Tigers hitters came out very aggressive against Pirates starter Johan Oviedo, and it worked for them. The first six Detroit batters all produced hard-hit balls — defined by MLB as balls hit with an exit velocity of 95 MPH or greater. And they did all that in 11 total pitches.
Matt Vierling led off with 106.8 MPH single, and Jonathan Schoop followed with a first-pitch, sun-aided double at 96.7 MPH. Riley Greene smoked the next pitch for a 103.7 MPH, two-run single. And then Miguel Cabrera narrowly missed a home run, blasting a 106.7 MPH double that traveled 413 feet. The onslaught continued with a 337-foot Kerry Carpenter sacrifice fly at 102.7 MPH, and finally ended when Eric Haase laced a 105.4 MPH single to give the Tigers a 4-0 lead.
Mason Keeps Building
Rule 5 draft pick Mason Englert must stay on Detroit’s active roster this season, or else the Tigers have to offer him back to the Texas Rangers. That’s a tall order for a 23-year-old with fewer than 200 pro innings pitched, and just 15.1 innings above A-Ball.
But for the second consecutive spring outing, Englert looked like he belonged in the Bigs. He wasn’t quite as dominant as in his first appearance, but he still gave the team two solid innings, allowing just one run on three hits. And it’s worth noting the three hits were all perfectly placed bloopers. Englert threw 21 strikes in his 30 pitches, he mixed in six different offerings, and he earned six called strikes and three swings and misses.
Home Runs Do the Trick
The first five runs of the game came via old-fashioned hits and sacrifice flies. But nine of the next ten came courtesy of home runs. Eric Haase hit the first, blasting a 426-foot solo shot off Caleb Smith in the bottom of the 4th. Then in the top of the 5th Pittsburgh’s 6-foot-7 shortstop Oneil Cruz stuck his arms out and poked a 355-foot, two-run shot to the opposite field off Jose Cisnero.
The Pirates had pulled to within 5-4 when Tyler Nevin, who is ostensibly battling Spencer Torkelson for the first base job, demolished a Daniel Zamora slider. Nevin’s two-run blast left his bat at 111 MPH and went an estimated 429 feet. But Pittsburgh outfielder Travis Swaggerty outdid Nevin, crushing a Rony Garcia fastball 433 feet for a game-tying three-run shot in the 8th inning.
Then came Maton’s game winner, which left his bat at 106 MPH and traveled 401 feet. It was his second home run of the spring, and it added to an impressive defensive performance at shortstop. It’s early, but Maton is making a very strong impression for the Tigers.
The Tigers are back in action in Lakeland on Thursday, taking on the Baltimore Orioles at 1:05 p.m. Matthew Boyd is scheduled to make his first start of the spring.
Photo Credit: Kirthmon F. Dozier / USA TODAY NETWORK