Top players in Detroit Tigers’ lineup produce in 6-6 tie with Pittsburgh Pirates

Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers tied the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-6, on Friday at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.

The Tigers stayed at 12-16 in Grapefruit League play after their second consecutive tie.

What happened

The top six batters in the Tigers’ lineup — Kerry Carpenter, Nick Maton, Javier Báez, Austin Meadows, Spencer Torkelson and Miguel Cabrera — were the catalysts for a 15-hit effort in the third-to-last game in spring training.

That group finished 10-for-21 and drove in five runs.

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Maton went 2-for-2 with two walks and a solo home run in the sixth inning. He clobbered a slider at the top of the strike zone and sent the ball 418 feet, putting the Tigers ahead 5-3.

It was Maton’s second homer in as many days, and his fifth homer this spring.

“If he gets good pitches to hit and stays in the strike zone, I don’t think anyone knows what to expect,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “Let’s see. He hasn’t had the at-bats in the big leagues for us to have a full opinion, but I like what he’s doing.”

Starting off

Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez — named the Tigers’ Opening Day starter — completed his final start in spring training. He allowed three runs on nine hits and one walk with six strikeouts.

The 29-year-old threw 58 of 85 pitches for strikes.

The Pirates put eight of 16 balls in play with at least a 100 mph exit velocity, but Rodriguez limited the damage without his best pitches. He generated six whiffs, including five with his changeup, and 20 called strikes.

“It was one of those spring training games that I felt like I really needed,” Rodriguez said. “There are games where all your pitches aren’t working the way you want. I used the changeup more to get swing-and-miss, ground balls and outs.”

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Connor Joe put the Pirates ahead on the scoreboard, 2-0, by hitting Rodriguez’s first-pitch cutter for a two-run home run in the first inning. Mark Mathias extended the lead to 3-0 with an RBI single in the second inning.

“I think he wasn’t very aggressive to begin the game,” Hinch said. “I think he got a little more aggressive as the game went along, and then he had some long inning waits (on the bench) when we put up a few quality at-bats. … He had to battle through a few things.”

Rodriguez conceded his first walk to Carlos Santana at the beginning of the sixth inning. He responded by striking out Ji-Man Choi with a nasty down-and-in changeup to end his outing.

Left-handed reliever Chasen Shreve recorded the final two outs in the sixth.

Rodriguez logged a 1.47 ERA with three walks and 21 strikeouts over 18⅓ innings in five starts this spring. He had a 67.7% strike rate.

“I’m ready to go out there and pitch my first start,” Rodriguez said.

At the plate

The Tigers scored five times on RBIs from Maton (one), Báez (two), Meadows (one) and Torkelson (one). The first two runs came against right-hander Roansy Contreras in the third inning; the next two runs came against left-hander Jose Hernandez in the fourth.

In the sixth, Maton homered off righty Robert Stephenson.

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The Tigers scored their final run in the eighth inning for a 6-5 lead. Parker Meadows opened the inning with a double and scored on Brendon Davis’ two-out single into right field.

On the mound

Right-handed reliever Beau Brieske surrendered two runs in the top of the seventh inning. He left a changeup in the middle of the strike zone, and the Pirates tied the game, 5-5, when Ke’Bryan Hayes hit the hanging pitch for a two-run home run. Brieske then delivered a scoreless eighth inning.

“He’s feeling his way through his pitches,” Hinch said. “I think he’s trying to be pretty perfect with everything: his mechanics, location, execution, tempo. Nothing seems natural right now, but he’s working on a lot of different things.”

After the Tigers took a 6-5 lead, right-handed reliever Brendan White — called up from minor-league camp — allowed one run in the ninth inning. The first batter of the inning singled, stole second base, advanced to third base on a passed ball by catcher Michael Papierski and scored on a fielder’s choice.

The game ended in a 6-6 tie.

Three stars

1. Maton; 2. Carpenter; 3. Báez.

Next up

Saturday (6:07 p.m.) vs. Toronto Blue Jays in Dunedin.

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

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