Folks, if you’re not watching this game, flip over to TBS on your TV. If you’re not the TV-owning type, head to your nearest sports bar because you’re not going to want to miss the conclusion of this game, as it’s been a complete pitcher’s duel through the first two and a half hours.
Tigers starter Justin Verlander retired the first 11 Athletics he faced and has allowed just four hits through seven frames. Overall, he has struck out 11 and walked one. The closest Verlander has been to danger came in the bottom of the fifth when the Athletics led off the inning with consecutive singles. However, a failed bunt attempt by Josh Reddick followed by two strikeouts put the kibosh on that rally. The A’s tried to put together a two-out rally in the seventh when Reddick singled to right to put runners at first and third, but Verlander escaped after a ten-pitch at-bat by Stephen Vogt, resulting in a strikeout. Vogt fouled off seven of the ten pitches he saw.
Athletics rookie starter Sonny Gray has matched Verlander, also holding the Tigers to three hits and two walks while striking out eight. Like Verlander, the fifth inning was a bit dicey for Gray. Omar Infante walked to lead off the inning, then advanced to second on a Don Kelly ground out. Jose Iglesias then reached on an infield single, putting runners at first and third with one out. Unfortunately for the Tigers, the Athletics executed a strike-him-out/throw-him-out double play, retiring Austin Jackson on strikes while catcher Stephen Vogt nailed Iglesias at second base.
Gray is at 97 pitches, Verlander 117. It looks like it will end up being a battle of the bullpens. Hold on to your seats.
The Mets have begun working outfielder Jay Bruce and second baseman Neil Walker at first base as potential insurance in the event Lucas Duda continues to experience back discomfort, Mike Puma of the New York Post reports. Duda has been sidelined recently due to back spasms and missed all but 47 games last season as a result of a stress fracture in his lower back.
Manager Terry Collins spoke about Bruce’s work at first base on Sunday, saying, “I liked everything I saw today. “It looks like he’s got the athleticism, he’s got the hands, he’s got the arm angle. He made some throws in our drills that you wouldn’t expect an outfielder to be able to make, but yet he does. If that’s where we have to go, I think we’ll be fine.”
Bruce has only three games’ worth of experience at first base at the major league level, but still has high expectations for himself. He said, “I am going to work at it. I want to give myself a chance and the team a chance. I am not going to go over there and be a butcher. It’s just not the way I go about my business on the baseball field and it wouldn’t be fair to the team if I wasn’t capable to do it, so I am going to work at it and we’ll see what happens.”
The Mets made Bruce available via trade over the offseason but didn’t get an offer that whet their appetite. As a result, Michael Conforto appears to be the odd man out in the Mets’ crowded outfield.
Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis has been diagnosed with a strained rotator cuff in his right shoulder, MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian reports. Kipnis has received a cortisone shot and will be shut down from throwing for the next four to five days.
There’s a lot of spring left, so it’s perfectly sensible for the Indians to play it safe with their star player. The club already had Kipnis on a shoulder strengthening program.
Kipnis, 29, helped the Indians to the playoffs after batting .275/.343/.469 with 23 home runs, 92 RBI, 91 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases in 688 plate appearances during the regular season last year. He then helped the Indians reach Game 7 of the World Series against the Cubs, where they were eventually stopped, as he provided a .741 OPS including four homers and eight RBI in 15 playoff games.