In an MLB spring training interleague matchup on Friday that was a pitching duel for most of the game, the visiting Detroit Tigers defeated the Atlanta Braves 11-3 at the ESPN/Disney complex in Florida.
Braves starter Anibal Sanchez, the former Tiger who is competing for a big league roster spot on a minor league contract, was working with a 3-0 lead before Tigers catcher James McCann doubled in three runs (he was thrown out at third to end the inning) in the fifth. Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman’s doubled in the first and homered in the third off of Tigers starter Daniel Norris, which led to the Braves’ edge prior to that point.
“Freddie Freeman went 2-for-2 with a two-run homer for the Braves, raising his average to 0.341 with four doubles, two homers and a 0.977 OPS in 41 at-bats,” the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.
Things got out of hand for the Atlanta Braves in the seventh inning when reliever and game loser Matt Wisler coughed up six hits, one walk, and seven runs without getting one out. The Tigers added another run in the ninth on a home run by infielder Nico Goodrum in the 17-hit attack. Shane Greene was credited with the win in relief of Norris.
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. In the regular season, AL pitchers must bat when they visit NL cities.
In spring training, starting pitchers ordinarily work just four or five innings as they gradually stretch out for the 162-game campaign, and established big leaguers see limited action if they are in the lineup at all on a particular day. Minor leaguers typically replace starting position players in the later innings, which also explains why a team’s regular-season closer might come in well before the ninth.
In 2018 Grapefruit League action to date, which is rapidly winding down, the Tigers are 11-14, while the Braves are 13-15, although results in the exhibition season may or may not have a predictive effect on what happens when the games start counting for real.
The Atlanta Braves are playing their final exhibition 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 a new spring training facility in Northport in Sarasota County in 2019. [Update: The Sarasota stadium may not be fully ready until 2020.]
In the 2017 MLB regular season, the Braves finished third in the National League East with a record of 72-90. The Tigers finished last in the American League Central with a record of 64-98. Fans of either squad don’t have particularly high expectations for their teams’ success in the 2018 MLB regular season, which starts earlier than usual, on March 29. Baseball is so random, which is one of the ways it is unique among professional sports, that it obviously remains to be seen how the situation will actually unfold for the Atlanta Braves, the Detroit Tigers, or any other MLB team.