LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers finished their Grapefruit League opener against the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday at Joker Marchant Stadium tied at 6-all.
Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, the Tigers’ newly announced Opening Day starter, pitched three innings of one-run ball. He allowed three hits but no walks, a testament to his superb command, while racking up three strikeouts.
The Tigers scored two runs in the third on back-to-back solo home runs from outfielders Akil Baddoo and Riley Greene off Phillies reliever Cam Bedrosian, an eight-year MLB veteran. Baddoo, a left-handed hitter, crushed a changeup for a 405-foot homer to right; Greene, also a lefty, smacked a fastball the opposite way to left-center.
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Three members of the Tigers’ bullpen — right-handers Jacob Barnes, Bryan Garcia and Drew Carlton — squandered Rodriguez’s strong start. The Tigers posted a three-run sixth inning for a 6-4 lead, highlighted by Kody Clemens’ 399-foot homer to right field. The organization values his pop from the left side of the plate.
Rodriguez filled the strike zone with authority in his first start for the Tigers. He signed a five-year, $77 million contract in November.
He struck out one batter in each inning: Bryson Stott swinging in the first with a 94 mph four-seam fastball, Darick Hall (on three pitches) swinging in the second with a 93 mph four-seamer and Johan Rojas swinging in the third with a nasty down-and-in, 88 mph cutter.
Rodriguez threw 42 pitches, 32 for strikes. He used 17 four-seam fastballs, 15 sinkers, seven changeups and three cutters, producing five swings and misses and eight called strikes. His fastball averaged 93 mph.
In the second frame, Rodriguez worked around a fielding error by shortstop Willi Castro and a misplay in center by Greene, which allowed Justin Williams’ hit to drop in for a single. The Phillies scored their only run against Rodriguez in the third inning: an RBI groundout from Alec Bohm.
At the plate
The Tigers took a 2-1 advantage in the third — thanks to the back-to-back homers from Baddoo and Greene — and extended their lead in the fourth.
Spencer Torkelson, who went 1-for-27 last spring, led off the inning with a line-drive double to left field, and he advanced to third on a wild pitch from Phillies reliever Andrew Bellatti. Tucker Barnhart, the Tigers’ new catcher, singled to drive in Torkelson to make it 3-1.
Two runs scored in the sixth for a 5-4 lead, as Clemens homered to right field and Dillon Dingler ripped an opposite-field RBI double off the “Margaritaville Patio” sign on the right-field wall. Dingler scored for a two-run lead as Zack Short reached safely on a fielder’s choice grounder.
On the mound
Right-handed reliever Joe Jimenez replaced Rodriguez and fired a scoreless fourth inning, escaping two singles without damage. Barnes allowed a two-run homer to Darick Hall in the fifth, and Garcia gave up an RBI ground-rule double in the sixth; those runs gave the Phillies a 4-3 lead.
Although the Tigers struck for three runs in the sixth, the Phillies tied the game, 6-6, in the seventh against Carlton, whose sinker averaged 92 mph — a 2 mph uptick from last season’s velocity. Matt Kroon hit a two-run homer off him.
Right-hander Will Vest pitched a scoreless eighth inning and struck out the first two batters he faced: Wendell Rijo and Edgar Cabral. His four-seam fastball averaged 96 mph, a substantial increase from last year, and maxed out at 97.3 mph.
For the ninth, right-hander Markus Solbach kept the Phillies scoreless.
1. Greene, 2. Baddoo, 3. Rodriguez.
Saturday vs. Pittsburgh Pirates in Bradenton.