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Sanchez pitches well in Tigers' loss to Yankees

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Tampa, Fla. — Anibal Sanchez tossed five solid innings, J.D. Martinez kept up his scorching spring, but the Yankees defeated the Tigers, 9-8, on Tuesday night at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Ramon Flores hit a long three-run homer off Rafael Dolis with two out in the bottom of the ninth to win it, exciting a sellout crowd of mostly Yankees fans.

Sanchez had long left the ballpark by that time, but his fastball had life and he worked in all his pitches in pretty impressive fashion.

He went five innings, hitting his target number of pitches on the nose: 70. He allowed two runs on four hits, while walking three. He struck out four.

"I mixed it up and pitched really good with (Alex) Avila," Sanchez said. "Better than last year."

Last spring was a trying one for Sanchez, who didn't get regular work because of a number of issues, including weather that always seemed to affect him, as well as nagging injuries. Maybe it's just coincidental, but he battled injuries throughout the 2014 regular season.

No such roadblocks this spring for Sanchez, who figures he's right where he needs to be entering the final two starts of camp.

The loss meanwhile, means the Tigers have won just once since March 13, if you're one of those folks who really cares about spring-training records.

Now, if you're one of those who likes spring-training hitting statistics, then you'll love these: Martinez is batting .347 in 16 spring games, adding two more RBIs — giving him 11 — on a long double in the second inning.

"If the season started tomorrow," said Martinez, "I feel like I'd be all right."

Alex Avila also had a long RBI double, off the wall in center field, as he continues to put up some good swings in recent days.

Anthony Gose was the Tigers' leadoff hitter and continues to impress. He hit the ball hard his first three times up, including a game-starting single.

But he really shined on defense, where he showed off an abnormally strong arm for a center fielder. In the bottom of the first inning, Chase Headley flew out to medium-depth in center, and the runner on second base, the speedy Brett Gardner, tagged up for third.

Gose unleashed a seed to get Gardner easily, sending the non-Detroit writers scrambling to find out just who was playing center field.

"You have your corner guys who have the cannons," said Nick Castellanos, the third baseman who caught Gose's throw. "For center field, that's pretty impressive."

Gose also had an assist in the fourth inning.

Ian Kinsler had a two-run single, and Miguel Cabrera, playing in his second Grapefruit League game, singled, walked and struck out twice.

Yoenis Cespedes, in left field, avoided serious injury when his midsection crashed into the wall down the third-base line while he was chasing, unsuccessfully, a pop-up in the first inning.

He stayed in the game and had two hits, though one was an absolute gift from the Steinbrenner Field official scorer. It was a misplayed routine grounder to third base.

For the Yankees, Alex Rodriguez had a single and a walk in three plate appearances. He got a decent ovation his first time up, but lukewarm after.

On the pitching side, Angel Nesbitt, Kyle Ryan, Buck Farmer and Rafael Dolis followed Sanchez to the mound. Nesbitt pitched around two hits in the sixth inning, while Ryan, who has been making a strong case to be one of the two left-handers in the Tigers bullpen, stumbled a bit Tuesday, allowing three runs on two hits in a walk while getting two outs in the seventh inning. Dolis, who's also turned some heads this spring, blew the three-run lead in the ninth.

"I didn't enjoy it," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Really, what bothers me as much as the walkoff is the fact that we've walked all these guys (eight) and gave them base runners. You just can't do that. I don't care if it's spring training."

The Tigers return to action at 1:05 p.m. Wednesday agaainst Marlins at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland.