SARASOTA, Fla. — After a blowout win at home in Lakeland on Tuesday, the Tigers won by a slim margin of 5-4 against the Orioles on the road. Anibal Sanchez and Drew VerHagen combined to give the Tigers four strong innings, allowing just one hit, with VerHagen striking out three. After being cleared to play in the game, Nick Castellanos hit a two-run homer on his birthday.
Jose Iglesias played for three innings and ran full-sprint for the first time this year, saying that everything felt great. Meanwhile, Blaine Hardy started out well enough, putting up a clean seventh inning but he couldn't get the third out in the eighth and ended up allowing three runs. Jose Valdez, who replaced Hardy in the eighth, served up a solo blast to Jayson Nix and made a once 5-0 lead into a close 5-4 clincher.
Joe Mantiply was called in to close it with a runner on and two outs in the ninth and he needed just one pitch to end the game. Mantiply was credited with the save with the help of Dixon Machado, who made an incredible and flashy play at shortstop. VerHagen was tagged with the win. Machado also had a two-hit game, scoring a run in addition to his flashy defensive work.
Anibal Sanchez gets some work in
Sanchez gave the Tigers two solid innings, giving up just one hit while striking out a batter. He threw every pitch during the game and said that his primary focus right now is his location and building his arm strength. Because of how last season started out for Sanchez, Ausmus would like to try and make sure his righty doesn't run into trouble like he did last year, weather included. Sanchez said he was especially pleased with how his breaking ball was working.
"Yeah I been working on that today and the second inning I just put first pitch for strikes," Sanchez said. "I was a little bit high today but that's why we play these games. They've got a pretty good lineup and I don't wanna pitch around those guys. They're smart, they're gonna swing because they're working, too."
Ian Krol impresses
It may have been just one inning of work but Krol impressed during his time on the mound, striking out one and walking a batter. The pitches he threw included a cutter-slider that Krol has been working on, as well as a "really good" changeup.
"The one thing we had emphasized more than any other was being able to throw the breaking ball behind in the count for a strike and he did," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He threw a 2-1 strike curveball to make it 2-2."
A working shift
The Tigers don't shift all that often, but when they do it's highly effective. Despite employing the shift less than other teams, the Tigers had one of the highest success-rates in Major League Baseball. The team has been working on some changes this year but nothing major, Ausmus said recently.
Wednesday they utilized the shift twice, both times successfully. Once with Orioles batter Chris Davis and another when Matt Wieters was at the plate. But with that being said, the team still has plenty to practice.
"We have to practice these things so that when we get to the season we'll be able to do it," Ausmus said. "So we're looking for opportunities to run the shift and today it worked out. When (Castellanos is) on the dirt that's a runner on first, he's there so he can turn a double play. When there's no one on or two outs, he's back to give him more range."
Alex Avila's wife gives birth to baby girl
At 12:18 p.m. Wednesday the Avila family welcomed a new member to the family, a girl, Zoey. Avila will take the next couple of days off and likely return on Saturday to play against the Braves on the road.
Drew VerHagen comfortable as starter or in relief, working on a new pitch
Because VerHagen worked as a reliever in college before transitioning into a starter when he was drafted into the big leagues, he isn't limited to one type of work. VerHagen said after the game that he is comfortable filling any role necessary. He's also been working on a new cutter-changeup that he's been getting a lot of swings and misses on, including Wednesday's game.
"Yeah it's something I'm still working on, there's days where it's not as good as it was today," VerHagen said. "It's still a process with that pitch but I would say more times than not I'm actually really, really happy with how it's going."