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Yankees top Tigers on walk-off balk

Michael Pineda debuts with two scoreless innings in the victory
03/08/2014 1:15 AM ET
By Lou DiPietro

Michael Pineda dazzled in his spring debut, striking out four hitters over two scoreless innings.(AP)
Carlos Beltran homered again, Michael Pineda dominated in his spring debut and fans got to see a rather rare walk-off balk to lead the New York Yankees to a 3-2 win over the Detroit Tigers at Steinbrenner Field on Friday night.

It was a bizarre ending to a game that saw the Yankees compile just eight hits. But despite the rarity, the big story still remained the impressive performance of the much-maligned Pineda. The 25-year-old righty, who is battling for the final spot in the Yankees rotation, has not thrown a regular-season pitch since being acquired in January 2012. But if his first spring performance was any indication, Yankees fans may find out soon that he was worth the wait.

Pineda was the Yankees' third pitcher of the night, entering in the fifth inning and immediately making an impact by striking out Austin Jackson looking. Pineda would go on to allow just one hit and strike out four over two scoreless innings, throwing 21 of his 27 pitches for strikes -- including his final one, a nasty slider that made three-time defending American League batting champion Miguel Cabrera wave wildly and become Pineda's final victim.

The righty said after the outing that "my command felt perfect," and catcher Brian McCann summed up just what was working, telling the media that "(Pineda's) slider was pretty much unhittable."

For the most part, the rest of the Yankees pitching staff did pretty well too. Starter Hiroki Kuroda led the way, allowing just one hit and one walk while striking out five in 2 2/3 scoreless innings. Shawn Kelley relieved him to get the final out of the third against the only batter he faced.

The Yankees offense would get on the board in the bottom of the third inning, with Derek Jeter knocking a two-out single before Carlos Beltran smashed his second home run of the spring, a two-run shot to right that gave the Yankees a 2-0 lead.

David Robertson pitched a perfect fourth and Pineda dominated in his two frames, but the Tigers finally got to Matt Thornton in the seventh to tie the game. Thornton, seeing his first extended action of the spring, allowed two runs on four hits in that inning, with Austin Jackson's RBI triple getting the Tigers on the board and Steve Lombardozzi's RBI single tying the game at 2-2.

The Tigers later had second and third with one out in the inning, but Thornton recovered to strike out Danny Worth and induce a Steven Moya groundout to escape further trouble. The Bombers would face an old friend in the bottom of the frame, Joba Chamberlain, but the right-hander would escape a two-on, two-out jam by striking out Francisco Arcia looking.

Preston Claiborne and Jim Miller would keep the Tigers off the board in the eighth and ninth, setting the stage for someone to be the hero -- and it was actually Detroit pitcher Luis Marte who answered the call.

With one out in the inning, Marte gave up back-to-back singles to Zelous Wheeler and Francisco Cervelli to put the winning run on third base, but batter Jose Gil wouldn't get the chance to drive it in. Home plate umpire Mark Carlson would call a balk on Marte, allowing Wheeler to score the winning run and Miller to pick up his first decision of the spring.

With the win, the Yankees push their record to 6-4 in the Grapefruit League and 7-4 on the spring overall, and they'll go for their third straight win on Saturday afternoon in Kissimmee, Fla. Ivan Nova will start the 1:05 p.m. game against the Houston Astros, with left-hander Manny Banuelos scheduled to see game action for the first time since undergoing Tommy John surgery late in 2012 and Mark Teixeira slated to make his second appearance of the spring at first base.

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