Detroit Tigers launch five homers in first five innings in 8-7 win over New York Yankees

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers beat the New York Yankees, 8-7, on Friday at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.

The Tigers are 12-10 in Grapefruit League play.

What happened

In 22 games, the Tigers have crushed 38 home runs. Five of them occurred in the first five innings against the Yankees, thanks to Colt Keith, Riley Greene, Akil Baddoo and Andrew Knapp.

Andre Lipcius, recently optioned to Triple-A Toledo, put the Tigers on the scoreboard, 1-0, with an RBI single in the first inning. He fell behind 0-2 in the count before slapping a down-and-away curveball for a bloop single into right-center field.

Then, the power surge started.

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Keith, a 21-year-old prospect who hasn’t played above High-A West Michigan and won’t make the Opening Day roster, annihilated a first-pitch fastball from right-hander Domingo Germán in the second inning to put the Tigers ahead 2-0.

He hit the ball with a 111.4 mph exit velocity, and it traveled 427 feet to right-center field.

With that home run, Keith set a new personal high in exit velocity for fly balls and line drives in his professional career. His previous best, 108.3 mph, came on a line-drive single in the Arizona Fall League.

Starting off

Right-hander Matt Manning needed an improved outing and delivered.

The 25-year-old tossed 3⅔ scoreless innings with one walk and four strikeouts, allowing just four hits. The highlight of his performance was escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the second inning.

Manning allowed back-to-back singles to Estevan Florial and Wilmer Difo before walking Billy McKinney on five pitches. He responded by striking out Rodolfo Duran on four pitches, using three sliders and one fastball. The next two batters popped out and flied out.

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Manning utilized his fastball to strike out four batters: Oswald Peraza (called strike, 95.4 mph fastball), Isiah Kiner-Falefa (called strike, 94.4 mph sinker), Duran (swinging strike, 94 mph fastball) and Florial (swinging strike, 93.7 mph fastball).

His slider, though, set the table for a few of those strikeouts.

He threw 59 pitches (39 strikes) in his second-to-last start in spring training, including 42% fastballs and 24% sliders. Both pitches were working for him. For the most part, they looked sharp throughout.

Manning’s velocity increased significantly compared to his previous three starts. His fastball averaged 93.2 mph, the same as his average last season, while he generated seven whiffs with four fastballs, two sliders and one changeup.

At the plate

In the third inning, Greene fell behind 1-2 in the count but tagged Germán’s outside fastball down the left-field line for an opposite-field solo home run. Three batters later, Baddoo unloaded on a first-pitch curveball for a two-run homer to right field, putting the Tigers in front 5-0.

Greene finished 2-for-3.

The 22-year-old is hitting .314 with three homers through 13 games in spring training.

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With two outs, Keith stepped into the batter’s box again.

This time, the top hitting prospect swung underneath a first-pitch fastball and skied the ball to center field. Left fielder Aaron Hicks ran across the outfield in hopes of making a spectacular play. He ended up dropping the ball while tumbling to the grass, which allowed a hustling Keith to cruise into third standing up.

Knapp replaced starting catcher Jake Rogers, who took a fastball off the elbow while batting in the second inning, as a pinch-hitter. He punished the Yankees by hitting Germán’s fastball for a two-run home run with two strikes.

That homer put the Tigers ahead 7-0 in the third inning.

Knapp added a solo home run in the fifth for the Tigers’ eighth run.

On the mound

Left-hander Joey Wentz, on the outside looking in in the battle for spots in the Tigers’ Opening Day rotation, pitched three innings — from the fifth through the seventh — and allowed five runs on six hits and one walk with three strikeouts.

He threw 36 of 52 pitches for strikes.

The Yankees scored two runs in the fifth and three runs in the seventh. Wentz, 25, hung a changeup with two outs in the seventh. Difo drilled the ball 350 feet to left-center field for a two-run home run.

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Right-hander Alex Faedo pitched the eighth and ninth innings. He allowed a two-run home run in the eighth, trimming the lead to one run, but slammed the door in the ninth with two strikeouts. He threw 23 of 34 pitches for strikes and finished with three strikeouts, one walk and four hits allowed.

Three stars

1. Manning; 2. Knapp; 3. Keith.

Next up

Saturday (1:05 p.m.) vs. St. Louis Cardinals in Jupiter.

Contact Evan Petzold at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

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