Miguel Cabrera hits first spring homer in Detroit Tigers' 3-1 win over Pirates

Evan Petzold
Detroit Free Press

LAKELAND, Fla. — The Detroit Tigers defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, 3-1, on Saturday at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium, improving to 8-10 in Grapefruit League play.

What happened

Left-hander Matthew Boyd started and pitched four innings. He worked up to 80 pitches (51 strikes) and seems on track to start the first or second game of the regular season. Boyd allowed one run on four hits and one walk, striking out five en route to a 2.08 ERA across four outings this spring. Veteran Miguel Cabrera put the Tigers on the scoreboard with an opposite-field homer; fellow (albit less-heralded) slugger Renato Nunez — seeking a spot on the roster — doubled in the team's second run two innings later. Nunez added an RBI single to left field in the eighth. Cabrera has a .185 batting average through 11 games in camp. The Tigers struck out five times andcollected six hits.

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Matthew Boyd delivers during the first inning in Lakeland, Florida, on Saturday, March 20, 2021.

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Starting off

Boyd leaned heavily on his slider, using it 28 times. Although he didn't get a swing-and-miss with his slider, it generated nine called strikes. He also tossed 29 four-seam fastballs, 15 changeups, five sinkers and three curveballs. Boyd got five whiffs: three with his four-seamer and two with his changeup. Beyond his arsenal, the veteran lefty showed some athleticism by picking off two runners. His fastball averaged 91.7 mph and reached 93.5 mph. Through 13 innings this spring, Boyd has 13 strikeouts and five walks.

At the plate

The Tigers were coming off two games with one run scored combined. They weren't much better Saturday, but their three runs were enough to sneak past the Pirates. Cabrera opened the scoring in the fourth inning with a homer to tie the game, and Nunez drove an RBI double to center field in the sixth inning for a 2-1 lead. Cabrera, entering his 19th season, sent his first homer of spring training 361 feet to right; it jumped off his bat at 98.8 mph. Cabrera and Nunez collected three of the Tigers' six total hits. The others were picked up by Robbie Grossman (double), Wilson Ramos (single) and Greg Garcia (single).

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On the mound

Left-hander Tyler Alexander threw a scoreless fifth and sixth innings. As expected, he filled up the strike zone, with 16 of his 19 pitches going for strikes. Yet he only got one strikeout. His pitch-to-contact approach allowed two hits but no walks. Right-hander Joe Jimenez entered in the seventh inning and reached the mid-90s with his fastball while getting three called strikes with his slider. Righty Buck Farmer worked himself into a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the eighth, thanks to two walks and one single, but he escaped unscathed with a groundout. Bryan Garcia allowed two runners in the ninth but got a double play off an acrobatic catch and throw from Greg Garcia. The right-hander struck out Troy Stokes Jr. — a former Tiger — to end the game.

Pittsburgh Pirates' Cole Tucker (3) is tagged out at home plate by Detroit Tigers catcher Wilson Ramos during the second inning in Lakeland, Florida, on Saturday, March 20, 2021.

Three stars

1. Boyd, 2. Nunez, 3. Cabrera.

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Next up

Sunday vs. Philadelphia Phillies in Clearwater.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.