Matt Manning dominates, Casey Mize still searching in Detroit Tigers' 7-2 win vs. Yankees

TAMPA — The Detroit Tigers beat the New York Yankees, 7-2, on Sunday at George M. Steinbrenner Field.

Detroit is 5-4-1 in Grapefruit League play.

What happened

The Tigers rolled out two of their regular starters — right-handers Matt Manning and Casey Mize — to face some of the best hitters in baseball.

The first five batters in New York's lineup: DJ LeMahieu, Juan Soto, Aaron Judge, Anthony Rizzo and Giancarlo Stanton. Alex Verdugo was supposed to be in the star-studded lineup as well, but he was scratched with a left leg contusion.

Manning tossed three innings of one-run ball with zero walks and four strikeouts; Mize tossed two scoreless innings with two walks and two strikeouts.

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The Tigers took a 3-1 lead with two runs in the fifth inning against left-handed reliever Caleb Ferguson. Jake Rogers opened the inning with a double to left field, followed by Zach McKinstry's eighth walk in 14 plate appearances.

Ferguson retired the next two batters, but he was replaced by right-handed reliever Alex Mauricio. Matt Vierling drove in Rogers and McKinstry with a two-run double to left field off Mauricio's cutter, putting the Tigers ahead, 3-1.

It was Vierling's first hit of spring training.

Starting off

Manning dominated with a high-velocity fastball, an improved changeup, and two variations of his slider, also mixing in one curveball. His changeup has more velocity and more depth, and he recaptured the harder version of his slider.

His fastball averaged 95.4 mph against the Yankees, up from a 93.4 mph average last season.

"I thought it was good," Manning said. "I had conviction and command of all my pitches. I got a lot of swing and miss, threw a lot of strikes, kept them off balance and kept our team in the ballgame."

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Manning surrendered a 405-foot solo home run to Juan Soto with one out in the first inning, but he retired the other nine batters he faced. He bounced back from Soto's homer by striking out Aaron Judge (swinging, 83.3 mph slider) and Anthony Rizzo (swinging, 95.7 mph fastball).

He struck out Austin Wells swinging with a devastating 91.1 mph changeup below the strike zone for the second out in the second inning. He also struck out Jeter Downs on three pitches in the third inning, freezing him with a 96.5 mph fastball for a called third strike.

Manning was asked about his approach to spring training games.

"Pitch, throw hard, win," he said.

The 26-year-old then was asked about the competition among the starting pitchers in spring training. Three pitchers — Manning, Mize and Reese Olson — are competing for the final two spots in the rotation, joining Tarik Skubal, Kenta Maeda and Jack Flaherty.

"I feel great," Manning said. "It's a good team. It's a hard team to make. I'm just doing me."

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Matt Manning throws a pitch against the New York Yankees in the first inning at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday, March 3, 2024, in Tampa, Florida.
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Matt Manning throws a pitch against the New York Yankees in the first inning at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Sunday, March 3, 2024, in Tampa, Florida.

Before Sunday's game, manager A.J. Hinch said Manning "came in prepared to compete" for a spot on the Opening Day roster, but when asked about his manager's words, Manning offered a different perspective.

"I don't think I'm competing for anything," Manning said. "If anything, I'm competing with myself, how good I can be. They're going to take the best five pitchers out of camp. I know who I am as a pitcher. I'm just going to do me."

An intense Manning threw 22 four-seam fastballs, 11 sliders, five changeups and one curveball. He generated five whiffs with one fastball, three sliders and one changeup. His fastball produced six of his eight called strikes, as well.

Manning has performed well through two starts, combining for one walk and six strikeouts across five innings. He threw 29 of 38 pitches for strikes against the Yankees.

"He's created depth with some of his secondary pitches," Hinch said, "which makes his fastball better, and then the velocity is right where it needs to be. ... I thought that was a really good outing. He wants to be perfect, but that was pretty awesome."

At the plate

Andy Ibáñez, who crushes left-handed pitchers, kickstarted the Tigers on offense with a solo home run — his third of the spring — against left-handed starter Nestor Cortes. After that, Cortes settled in to complete four innings of one-run ball.

The Tigers didn't score again until the two-run fifth inning.

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The Tigers extended their lead to 7-2 with four runs in the eighth inning. The first six batters reached safely: Keston Hiura (walk), Bligh Madris (single), Ryan Kreidler (hit-by-pitch), Jace Jung (single), TJ Hopkins (walk) and Buddy Kennedy (walk).

The single from Jung scored one run for a 4-2 advantage. Two more runs scored on bases-loaded walks from Hopkins and Kennedy, and the final run scored on Dillon Dingler's sacrifice fly.

On the mound

Right-hander Casey Mize emerged from the bullpen to pitch the fourth and fifth innings, piggybacking with Manning. The 26-year-old worked around a pair of walks in the fourth and a leadoff double in the fifth for two scoreless innings.

He is still searching for his fastball command in return from elbow surgery and back surgery. It was just his second competitive game since May 12, 2022, in Triple-A Toledo.

"What I'm feeling is maybe excitement and adrenaline to play," Mize said. "I just feel a little bit rushed, and this game is so incremental, so if I'm a little bit jumpy to the plate, that leads to a lot of high arm-side. I definitely got to do a better job of being within myself and staying connected on the mound."

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Mize walked Judge on six pitches and Rizzo on five pitches.

He gave up a double to Brandon Lockridge on his 93.6 mph fastball at the bottom of the strike zone to open the fifth inning, but after a flyout, he sent down his final two batters with strikeouts: Downs (looking, 96.3 mph fastball) and LeMahieu (swinging, 95.9 mph fastball).

Mize used 23 fastballs, six sliders, six curveballs and three splitters. His fastball averaged 95.4 mph, generated both of his whiffs and recorded three of his six called strikes.

He threw 19 of 38 pitches for strikes.

"He's got to control his adrenaline and get in the zone," Hinch said. "That's completely normal for being down as long as he's been. He's certainly moving better, and he's got good stuff, but the adrenaline is getting to him early in his outings, and you can see him spraying the ball. I don't have any concern that it's going to be his norm, but it's his reality now getting back into the games."

Right-handed reliever Alex Lange gave up a leadoff single to Soto and suffered for falling behind 3-0 in the count to Rizzo, who hammered a fourth-pitch, middle-middle fastball for an RBI double. The Yankees cut the Tigers' lead to 3-2, but Lange escaped without further damage. He got all three of his outs with strikeouts.

Three stars

1. Manning, 2. Ibáñez, 3. Vierling.

Next up

Monday (1:05 p.m.) vs. Boston Red Sox in Lakeland.

Contact Evan Petzold at or follow him @EvanPetzold.

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This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Matt Manning dominates in Detroit Tigers' 7-2 win vs. Yankees