Lagares continues hot spring; Clark's double fuels rally
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers have had the green light running the bases all spring. They almost ran their way into a victory on Saturday afternoon at Joker Marchant Stadium with their third double steal in eight days. But Matt Clark's pinch-hit, two-run double completed a ninth-inning comeback, sending the Mets past the Tigers for a 3-2 win.
Both runs came off Justin Miller, a dark-horse candidate for a spot in Detroit's bullpen. A one-out walk to Dustin Lawley and a single to Juan Centeno put runners at the corners for Clark, who stayed alive in the at-bat long enough to turn on a fastball and send it down the right-field line to clear the bases.
Detroit was in control early on, as Drew Smyly's three scoreless innings set the tone for a low-scoring affair. The Tigers were also helped by two highlight catches by their corner outfielders that helped preserve a tenuous lead. Torii Hunter made a leaping catch at the right-field fence, robbing Andrew Brown of at least a double -- if not a solo homer -- in the fourth inning.
Two innings later, Ezequiel Carrera took away a game-tying hit, when he made a diving snare in the left-field gap of a scorched line drive from pinch-hitter Eric Campbell, allowing Phil Coke to escape a bases-loaded, no-out jam with one run allowed.
For Hunter, it showed an extra step that eluded him at times last season covering ground at Comerica Park. The bigger boost went to the speedy Carrera, one of a few candidates to share time in left field with Rajai Davis.
Both Detroit runs came off Noah Syndergaard, who showed the nasty stuff that makes him one of New York's promising young starters but also struggled with command. Both Don Kelly and Daniel Fields reached on second-inning walks, setting them up to run with Bryan Holaday at the plate.
Syndergaard struck out Holaday swinging, but the offspeed pitch he used for it gave Kelly an extra split second to get into third base, as Fields followed into second. Steve Lombardozzi stepped to the plate in a two-out RBI situation and hit a ground ball deep enough to the right side to skip past Eric Young Jr. and into short right field. Fields rounded third as Kirk Nieuwenhuis charged the ball.
Syndergaard gave up two runs on two hits, but walked three with three strikeouts. Five Mets relievers combined for six innings of three-hit scoreless ball from there.
The Mets also retired two other Tigers on the bases, with Jacob deGrom catching Hunter trying to steal in the fourth inning and Ian Kinsler getting doubled off on a line drive to Anthony Seratelli in the sixth.
The Tigers have swiped 15 bases so far this spring. They stole 17 bases in Grapefruit League play in each of the last two years, and haven't stolen 20 bases in a Spring Training since 2006.
Juan Lagares continued to swing a hot bat, as he delivered two singles -- including a ground ball through the middle that led off New York's scoring threat in the sixth. Coke, who gave up three runs on six hits in his previous outing last Monday against the Cardinals, walked Nieuwenhuis -- the only left-handed hitter he faced -- before Josh Satin's slow roller down the third-base line stayed fair to load the bases.
Coke induced a double-play grounder from Brown, as Lagares scored to put New York on the board. Nieuwenhuis moved to third, where he was poised to score had Campbell's liner fallen.
Up next: Right-hander Zach Wheeler will start on Sunday afternoon against the Braves in Port St. Lucie at 1:10 p.m. ET. He'll be followed on the mound by Carlos Torres, Kyle Farnsworth, Jose Valverde, lefty Jack Leathersich, Jeurys Familia and Ryan Reid. Kris Medlen is scheduled to start for the Braves.