St. Petersburg, Fla. – What mattered Tuesday at Tropicana Field, perhaps more than a final score, was how fast the Tigers could take care of business against the Rays and jump aboard the team charter for their flight north.
In all ways.
They broke up what threatened to be, technically, a Tampa Bay no-hitter when they got three singles and Cam Gibson’s game-winning double, all in the seventh inning, to beat the Rays, 2-1, and ensure an early evening arrival in Detroit.
The game began at 12:35 p.m. and finished in 2 hours, 26 minutes.
“Didn’t get anyone hurt and the kids came out and played well,” said Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire, who, like his players and the front office, was scurrying to get out the clubhouse door, onto a bus, and headed for a flight home ahead of Opening Day, Thursday against the Pirates at Comerica Park.
The Tigers went with a lineup Tuesday mostly filled with prospects borrowed from their TigerTown camp.
But they did throw a legitimate starting pitcher against the Rays, Matthew Boyd, who pitched five innings, allowed but a first-inning run, and on the day struck out seven, while walking two. The Rays had only two hits against Boyd, both in the first.
“The starter looked real good,” Gardenhire said of Boyd’s 85-pitch tune-up.
The Tigers hadn’t had a hit until Daz Cameron began the seventh with an infield single. Follow-up singles by Jake Rogers and Christin Stewart sent Cameron to third, and ultimately, across home plate ahead of Gibson’s double along the right-field line, which scored Rogers with the game-winner.
“I’ve got to thank Gardy for bringing us over,” said Gibson, the outfielder drafted out of Michigan State in 2015 whose dad, Kirk, folks will remember played a bit of big-league baseball in Detroit, Los Angeles, and elsewhere.
“It was fun, and also informational.”
Gibson spent a serious winter body-building and working on his offense, all in a bid to move closer to Comerica Park. There was one particular focus.
“Curveball machine every day,” said Gibson, who worked with his dad on hitting mechanics and, just as much, on a keener hitting mentality.
It was a slider from R.J. Alaniz that Gibson swatted into the corner for his game-winner.
Victor Alcantara, Louis Coleman, and Paul Voelker finished for the Tigers, holding the Rays to a pair of hits.
Voelker had a nervy ninth inning, walking the bases loaded with two outs. But he got Taylor Walls on a called third strike, Voelker’s third strikeout of the inning. He’s a right-handed reliever, 25, who was a 10th-round pick in 2014 out of Dallas Baptist College.
Bob Wojnowski and Lynn Henning prepare you for Opening Day and the Tigers' 2018 season with a not-so-optimistic look at the rebuilding team's chances.
AROUND THE HORN
The Tigers will work out Wednesday afternoon at Comerica Park ahead of Thursday’s regular-season inaugural.
… Two pitchers trying to snap back from various ills, Mike Fiers and Johnny Barbato, threw bullpen sessions Tuesday at TigerTown. “Both threw well,” Gardenhire said. “No issues whatsoever.”
… The Tigers finished with five hits Tuesday. Chad Sedio’s single was their only hit apart from four in their two-run seventh.
… Grapefruit League final record for the 2018 Tigers: 13-15-5.
… Stewart made the most of his Tigers spring-game cameos. His batting average in Grapefruit League games: .571. Stewart was a first-round pick in 2015.
… The Tigers will lock in their 25-man active roster Wednesday afternoon. Position-wise, nothing has changed. JaCoby Jones, Niko Goodrum, and Victor Reyes all have clinched spots, barring any waiver-wire changes or new injuries.
… Gardenhire’s disposition toward 2018: “Just be us. Go out and play and see where you are halfway through the season. They’ll (his players will) be OK.”