Long drive, long game: Mets trip sloppy Tigers

Lynn Henning
The Detroit News
Nick Castellanos

Port St. Lucie, Fla. – It’s not a trip anyone likes to make. Non-fans would include Tigers players who are free to wonder just why they must ride a bus for three hours, across some desolate stretches of two-lane highway, past a turnpike-delivery burg called Yeehaw Junction, just to play a baseball game.

Especially one as forgettable as Monday’s at Tradition Field.

With the help of two errors, two Mets home runs off two bad Tigers pitches, and a Detroit travel roster that looked more like something crafted from the minor-league clubhouse, the Tigers probably deserved their 7-3 beating by the Mets in a Grapefruit League get-together that had a minimum of redeeming factors, at least from the Tigers’ perspective.

“Long trip,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus acknowledged, although the skipper wasn’t offering Monday’s cross-state tour as any brand of excuse.

The Tigers watched a throwing error by Nick Castellanos in the third factor in what otherwise stood to be an acceptable start from Mike Pelfrey, at least before the error and a pair of Pelfrey walks helped New York to three runs.

BOX SCORE: Mets 7, Tigers 3

“Sometimes his sinker was cutting – he was coming across the ball,” Ausmus said of Pelfrey, who ended up allowing two earned runs in his 2.1 innings, interspersed by a single and those two walks.

Ausmus, though, was at least pleased Pelfrey “got his pitches in” – 44 of them, 22 of which were strikes.

Pelfrey wasn't quite as consoled.

"I was all over the place," he said. "Fastball command wasn’t very good. At the end of the day, when the ball-to-strike ratio is pretty even, it's not going to be a good day. But mechanically, I felt like I was cutting myself off because I was throwing a lot of sinkers.

"But I guess that's why it's spring training. There's a lot of time left."

Mark Lowe and Justin Wilson looked good in their one-inning relief stints, as long as you overlooked one bad pitch by each that turned into home runs from Neil Walker and Lucas Duda.

On the plus side, left-hander Kyle Ryan continued in his push to win a bullpen spot with a 1-2-3 inning highlighted by a pair of strikeouts.

The Tigers had taken a 1-0 lead in the first against Bartolo Colon when Anthony Gose drove a leadoff triple against the left-center field fence and scored on a single by Casey McGehee.

The Tigers got another run in the sixth on a pair of walks and James McCann’s RBI single. They scored once more in the ninth on Mike Gerber’s double, a single by Jordany Valdespin, and a wild pitch.

Health update

Anibal Sanchez will throw Tuesday at Marchant Stadium as he battles back from an earlier shoulder issue, which was compounded last week by a bad bout of bronchitis.

Castellanos left Monday’s game with a tight back that Ausmus said would likely keep him away from the lineup for at least a day. Ausmus said he doubted the taut back had much to do with Castellanos’ one-hop throw to first base that became a third-inning throwing error.

Gerber, baby!

Mike Gerber, the young outfielder from Creighton who had a big first full season on the Tigers farm in 2015, had a double against the left-center field fence Monday.

“Nice, easy swing,” Ausmus said of a left-handed hitter, 23, who last season batted .292, with an .822 OPS at Single A West Michigan. “The ball really jumps off his bat. He’s really put himself on the map.”

Job opening

The Tigers have no certified long-relief ace among their bullpen contestants.

Or, perhaps they do. Ryan, who has started and worked in the bullpen during his earlier cameos with the Tigers, has had back-to-back shutdown appearances, and on the spring has six strikeouts in four innings. He has walked one and allowed a pair of hits.

“I’ve always liked Kyle because of the movement on his pitches,” Ausmus said. “It’s tough to square him up.”

Bare minimum

Because the trek to Port St. Lucie requires everything but an airboat across the Everglades, the Tigers typically spare their veterans a six-hour, round-trip bus ride.

That means lots of kiddies and long-odds roster contestants are sure to play, and they did Monday. Among the cast: Gerber, Valdespin, Jason Krizan, Tommy Field, Dominic Ficociello, Raffy Lopez, A.J. Ladwig, etc.

The Tigers brought enough regulars for a quorum: Castellanos, Gose, and McCann, with help from more identifiable cast members such as Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Andrew Romine, and Tyler Collins.