Right-hander allows six earned runs, strikes out three in three innings
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers appear ready to lunge out of their cage upon the first pitch of the regular season. In Friday's 8-3 win over the Rays, they pounced on right-hander Jeremy Hellickson before a single-game record 10,451 fans at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Miguel Cabrera commenced the offensive barrage with an RBI double in the first inning. Prince Fielder, the ensuing batter, then socked a two-run homer off the branches of a palm tree beyond the right-field fence.
In the second, Alex Avila clubbed a Hellickson pitch into the jet stream, and it carried over the wall in left for an opposite-field, two-run homer. The Tigers (19-14-1) tacked on another pair of runs on an RBI triple by Austin Jackson and a sacrifice fly by Fielder to take a 7-0 lead through two.
"I didn't execute very many pitches today," said Hellickson, who surrendered eight runs (six earned) on seven hits in three innings.
Omar Infante was responsible for Detroit's eighth run, as he belted a solo homer with two outs in the third.
Hellickson wrapped up his spring with a 6.75 ERA, and Friday's outing marred what had been a solid showing in recent weeks. The right-hander had better success in his previous appearance against the Tigers on March 19, when he limited Detroit to three runs in six innings. On this cloudless Friday, however, he needed 72 pitches to get through three innings.
"I'm pretty disappointed," Hellickson said. "That's not how I wanted to go into the season. … My confidence isn't down at all, but it definitely would've been nice to go out there and execute and get outs, which is not what I did."
Max Scherzer tossed six dazzling innings for Detroit. The righty allowed only one hit -- a fifth-inning double to Kelly Johnson -- and struck out nine. In four Grapefruit League starts, Scherzer posted a 0.57 ERA with 20 strikeouts in 15 2/3 innings.
Sam Fuld provided the Rays' first scoring with a two-out, two-run homer off Octavio Dotel in the eighth. James Harris Jr. followed with an RBI single later in the inning.
With the loss, Tampa Bay fell to 15-17-1 this spring.
Up next: The Tigers and Rays will reconvene at Tropicana Field for a final spring game at 1:10 p.m. ET on Saturday. Left-hander Matt Moore is scheduled to pitch for Tampa Bay. The game can be heard live on Gameday Audio. The Rays play host to the Orioles at 3:10 p.m. ET on Tuesday on Opening Day.