Casey Mize has fastball, splitter working in Detroit Tigers’ 5-3 win against Yankees

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers topped the New York Yankees, 5-3, on Thursday at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, improving to 2-3 (with two ties) in Grapefruit League play.

The game ended after the seventh inning due to rain.

What happened

Following a 36-minute rain delay, the Tigers mounted a comeback with a five-run sixth inning. Facing Yankees left-handed reliever Joely Rodriguez, Jeimer Candelario hit a first-pitch changeup for a solo home run to left-center field to put the Tigers on the scoreboard.

Candelario’s home run was his first hit in spring training and snapped a streak of six consecutive strikeouts.

“Strikeouts in spring training, that’s part of it,” Candelario said. “I’m trying to get better on my rhythm and everything. You’re always trying to get better. We want to prepare ourselves for the first day of the season, be ready to go.”

Back-to-back singles from Josh Lester and Willi Castro sparked the comeback, and Eric Haase capitalized with a two-run double off the wall in center field to tie the contest at 3-all. Haase later scored on a passed ball, giving the Tigers a 4-3 lead

Right-hander Casey Mize, making his second spring training start, struck out six batters in three innings.

“He was really good,” Tigers manager AJ Hinch said.

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Starting out

Mize pitched three scoreless innings.

He allowed one hit and one walk, mowing down the Yankees with ease. He threw 30 of his 44 pitches for strikes.

The 24-year-old racked up two strikeouts in the first inning, punching out Marwin Gonzalez (94.7 mph fastball) and Anthony Rizzo (95.4 mph fastball). Both hitters struck out swinging on elevated fastballs. The Yankees put two runners in scoring position with two outs, but Mize worked out of the jam.

“Changed the grip on the four-seam,” Mize said. “That’s a pretty big thing. It’s got more carry and more ride to it. … Staying on top of the ball and driving through the four-seamer has really affected that ride.”

He struck out the side in the second frame: Phillip Evans (looking, 85.1 mph slider), Estevan Florial (swinging 95.3 mph fastball) and Ryan LaMarre (swinging, 86 mph splitter).

“It makes him very effective to get some swings and misses and get into leverage counts,” Hinch said of Mize’s fastball and splitter. “He can be a ball-in-play guy … but at some point during the game, you’re going to have to pitch out of a jam or get a big punch out with a runner on third and less than two outs.”

Mize needed just five pitches — all strikes — in the third inning. He struck out Gonzalez swinging on three pitches, dispatching him with a wicked 85.3 mph splitter for the second out. Then, Rizzo flied out to left on a first-pitch curveball to conclude Mize’s outing.

“It was good today,” Mize said of his splitter. “The feel is getting better. Progress has definitely been made in that area, and I feel really good about it.”

For his 44 pitches, Mize threw 28 four-seam fastballs (64%), six sliders (14%), six splitters (14%), three curveballs (7%) and one sinker (2%). He recorded six swings and misses — four with his four-seamer and two with his splitter, along with 11 called strikes.

His fastball averaged 94.5 mph.

“(The four-seam fastball is) something he’s really working on,” Hinch said. “He can move the ball with his two-seamer and maybe got a little bit two-seamer happy last year, especially to lefties. That carry today was really good. He got some swings and misses and had some power behind it.”

At the plate

The Tigers scored their fifth run in the sixth inning on a Jack Lopez opposite-field solo home run, which traveled 405 feet to right-center and chased Rodriguez from his relief appearance.

Yankees starter Clarke Schmidt pitched two scoreless innings. The Tigers’ best chance against him came in the second, when Willi Castro opened with a triple to the right-field corner. But Castro was stranded by Dustin Garneau (strikeout), Daz Cameron (strikeout) and Kody Clemens (lineout).

Castro finished 2-for-3 with one strikeout.

Victor Reyes picked up two hits, too.

On the mound

After Mize, the Tigers turned to right-hander Joe Jimenez, left-hander Miguel Del Pozo, righty Bryan Garcia and righty Miguel Diaz. Jimenez pitched a scoreless fourth inning; he has three scoreless innings in three outings this spring.

Del Pozo, trying to hang onto his spot on the 40-man roster, allowed three runs on four hits and one walk. He has a 45.00 ERA (five runs in one inning total) with three walks in two outings.

Garcia and Diaz each tossed 1⅓ scoreless innings, with Diaz registering one walk and three strikeouts. He got seven swings and misses: three with his sinker, three with his four-seam fastball and one with his changeup.

Three stars

1. Mize, 2. Diaz, 3. Candelario.

Next up

Friday vs. Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzoldRead more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.

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