WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers lost to the Washington Nationals, 2-1, on Sunday at The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches.
The Tigers are 12-12 in Grapefruit League play.
Left-hander Eduardo Rodriguez, in his first start since appearing for Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic, allowed one base runner in every inning but never lost control of those situations.
The 29-year-old, expected to be the No. 1 starter in the Tigers’ rotation, looked confident in his next-to-last outing before Opening Day. He posted 4⅔ scoreless innings with four hits and one walk with five strikeouts.
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Rodriguez, who generated three called strikeouts in the first inning and tossed 67 pitches in total, has not allowed a run in spring training, throwing 13 innings with two walks and 15 strikeouts over four starts.
In 2022, Rodriguez had a 4.05 ERA in 91 innings for the Tigers.
Five days ago, Rodriguez started for Venezuela against Nicaragua in the WBC in Miami. He allowed one run on seven hits with zero walks and three strikeouts in two innings, throwing 52 pitches.
He struggled to land his fastball for strikes in Tuesday’s outing against Nicaragua (with Angel Hernandez as the home plate umpire), but in Sunday’s outing against the Nationals, he found his way back inside the strike zone.
All five of his strikeouts came on called third strikes.
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His changeup, though, wasn’t as effective as he would have liked. He gave up a single to ex-Tiger Jeimer Candelario in the first inning, a double to CJ Abrams in the second, a walk to Lane Thomas in the third, a double to Keibert Ruiz in the fourth and a single to Abrams in the fifth .
But Rodriguez kept the Nationals off the scoreboard.
After throwing nearly 70 pitches, he feels prepared for the start of the regular season.
At the plate
The Tigers scored their only run in the first inning.
Kerry Carpenter doubled off right-hander Chad Kohl and scored on Spencer Torkelson’s single to right field for a 1-0 lead. The next batter, Eric Haase, grounded into an inning-ending double play.
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Torkelson finished 2-for-3.
The 23-year-old is hitting .300 with three doubles, one home run, two walks and nine strikeouts in 15 games this spring. The Tigers’ offense had six hits, one walk and nine strikeouts.
Three of those strikeouts occurred in the top of the ninth inning.
On the mound
After Rodriguez, left-handed reliever Tyler Holton finished the fifth inning and fired a scoreless sixth. Lefty Miguel Del Pozo worked around a leadoff walk, thanks to a double play and a strikeout, for a scoreless sixth inning.
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Right-hander Miguel Diaz issued a walk, too, but didn’t allow the two-out mistake to hurt him in the eighth inning.
Righty Aneurys Zabala, known for high-velocity fastballs and inconsistent command, entered for the ninth. He allowed a leadoff double to Trey Lipscomb before Corey Joyce’s fielding error at shortstop put runners on the corners. Then, Francisco Arcia’s walk loaded the bases with no outs.
Zabala struck out Viandel Pena for the first out, then walked Leonel Valera for the tying run. A strikeout by former Boston Red Sox prospect Jeter Downs got him within an out of ending the inning, but another grounder to Joyce had equally disastrous results; it skipped off Joyce’s glove for an error, allowing the winning run to score.
1. Torkelson; 2. Rodriguez; 3. Holton.
Monday (1:05 pm) vs. Toronto Blue Jays in Lakeland (on Bally Sports Detroit).
Contact Evan Petzold at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers’ Eduardo Rodriguez sharp in return from WBC