In an MLB spring training interleague matchup this afternoon, the visiting Detroit Tigers defeated the Atlanta Braves 5-3 before about enthusiastic 7,400 fans at the ESPN/Disney complex in Florida.
Tigers starter Daniel Norris got the win, while Braves reliever Josh Collmenter took the loss, giving up four hits and four runs. Nick Castellanos homered off of Collmenter in the fifth with Jose Iglesias on second, to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead, and the team scored two additional runs in the sixth.
In exhibition action so far, which generally has no predictive effect on what happens when the games count for real, the Tigers are 7-12 (3-5 away), while the Braves are 6-13, with a 5-5 record at home.
Scattering five hits over four innings, Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz gave up just one earned run — a home run to JaCoby Jones, who took “Folty” deep on the first pitch of the second inning — striking out seven, and retiring nine of the last 10 Tigers batters he faced. He managed to get out of jams in innings one and two, with runners in scoring position in both frames.
Norris (1-1) pitched 4-2/3 innings, allowing six hits, two earned runs, and striking out four, while retiring his last seven batters.
With minor leaguers inserted into the game, as per usual in late game spring training action, the Braves scored one in the ninth and put the tying runs on base, but Colin Walsh flied out to end the game.
In spring training, starting pitchers rarely go more than four innings. The lineups of both teams featured many of the regular season position players, who played most of the game, however. Braves slugger Freddie Freeman, the first baseman, is back from the World Baseball Classic, after Team Canada’s elimination from the tournament.
The game featured something of a spring training anomaly with the Braves pitcher, as per National League rules, batting in the nine hole, while the American League Tigers followed the standard designated hitter rule.
The Braves are playing their final Grapefruit League home games at Champion Stadium, located at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in Kissimmee, Florida, near Lake Buena Vista and Walt Disney World in Orlando. The team is moving to Sarasota County in 2018.
The ongoing financial struggle and related subscriber erosion of Disney-owned ESPN collectively constitutes another headache for the parent company, with layoffs of on-air personalities at the self-named Worldwide Leader in Sports expected in the coming months as a result.
The Houston Astros, the other MLB team in the Orlando metro area, switched its spring training base of operations to West Palm Beach effective this year, where they share a new facility, The Ballpark of The Palm Beaches, with the Washington Nationals. The Tigers, who train at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, are now the closest MLB team to the Orlando/Central Florida area.
Unlike the Cactus League in Arizona, where all the MLB teams train in roughly the same geographical area, which minimizes travel time for players and fans alike, teams that train in Florida are spread out all over the state. As it is, given the travel issue, only some of the starters show up and play away games in the Grapefruit League, to some degree, shortchanging the fans.
The Braves have also made a change in their regular season home field, having left Turner Field in downtown Atlanta for the new SunTrust Park in suburban Cobb County, which officially opens on April 14, 2017.
Both the Detroit Tigers and Atlanta Braves have bounce-back seasons in mind after a disappointing 2016 MLB campaign. The Tigers finished second in the American Central with a 86-75 mark, but ironically lost to the Atlanta Braves 1-0 on the last day of the season. That loss, combined with wins by the Baltimore Orioles and Toronto Blue Jays, knocked them out of Wild Card contention. The Braves finished in fifth place in the National League East, with a 68-93 record.
[Featured Image by Robert Jonathan]