Tigers starter fans two in two innings; pitching serves up four long balls
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Brian McCann hit his first home run in a Yankees uniform Friday, spearheading a four-homer barrage off Tigers pitching before New York's Minor Leaguers withstood a seventh-inning rally for a 7-4 win at Joker Marchant Stadium.
On a day when the Tigers easily outhit the Bronx Bombers, the combination of Yankees homers and Detroit outs on the basepaths nullified any advantage. All seven Yankees runs scored on balls that left the yard. McCann's solo shot leading off the second inning was the only base hit off Max Scherzer in the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner's first start of the spring.
A year ago at this point, Scherzer was being held back a bit as a precaution for his shoulder. With no such restrictions this spring, Scherzer pitched strong, topping out at 94 mph on his fastball while throwing all four pitches in his arsenal. His one mistake was a fastball to McCann, who drove it over an infield shift and off the batting cage building beyond right field.
Scherzer struck out two batters to close his outing. Yankees catching prospect Gary Sanchez added to the advantage with a third-inning solo homer off Luis Ortega.
Yankees starter Adam Warren walked two and allowed two hits over his two innings, but escaped a first-inning jam with back-to-back outs on the bases. Warren picked speedster Rajai Davis off second base with Miguel Cabrera at the plate. Cabrera drew a two-out walk, but was thrown out trying to go from first to third on Victor Martinez's walk, hoping to catch Warren unattentive.
"Miggy saw the third baseman was playing over towards the shortstop hole, and he thought he might be able to get there," manager Brad Ausmus said. "If he had kind of slowed down at second and acted like he was stopping, rather than just continuing, he might have got it. He also might have got it if he was 10 years younger."
Zoilo Almonte and Ramon Flores later threw out Tigers baserunners at the plate, while Jose Pirela threw out Steven Moya trying to stretch a single into a double. The aggressive play reflects Ausmus' push this spring to try for extra bases. It won't always be successful, but Ausmus has said he's trying to change the team's mindset.
"We told them from Day 1 that we wanted to force the defense to make the play," Ausmus said. "Well, today they made the plays. But one or two of those, three really, they had to make perfect throws. ... We want them to take chances now. You hope that creates kind of an overall mentality for baserunning as a team that we're always trying to go the extra 90 or 180 feet."
Pirela added a two-run homer off Luis Marte in the seventh inning, followed by a three-run shot by Yangervis Solarte to build a 7-0 lead. Moya's RBI single and John Murrian's two-run double cut it down in the bottom half, but never threatened to erase it.
Up next: Tigers insurance starters Kyle Lobstein and Drew VerHagen will take the mound Saturday afternoon for the Tigers' 1:05 p.m. ET matchup with the Astros at Joker Marchant Stadium. Lobstein is scheduled to make the start, with VerHagen -- who pitched a scoreless inning against Florida Southern College on Wednesday -- in relief along with Justin Miller, Ian Krol, Blaine Hardy and Al Alburquerque. Scott Feldman is scheduled to start for Houston. The game will be broadcast live on Gameday Audio and 97.1 FM in Detroit.