LAKELAND, Fla. - Three Tampa Pitchers combined to strike out 15 Lakeland batters, but the Flying Tigers struck for four runs in the third and held on to defeat the Tarpons, 5-3, following an hour and 45-minute rain delay on Friday night at Publix Field at Joker Marchant Stadium.
The Tarpons grabbed an early lead against Lakeland starter Tarik Skubal when Pablo Olivares walked, stole second and later scored on a base hit by Oswaldo Cabrera , giving Tampa a 1-0 lead in the first.
Isiah Gilliam doubled to open the second, but Skubal retired seven of the next eight batters he faced while completing four innings. The left-hander allowed one run on two hits while walking two and striking out four, throwing 42 of 61 pitches for strikes.
RHP Deivi Garcia struck out five of the first seven batters he faced before finding trouble in the third. Austin Athmann singled and, a strikeout later, JaCoby Jones doubled, putting runners at second and third. One strikeout later, Kody Clemens drew a walk to load the bases.
After a mound visit by pitching coach José Rosado, Garcia faced Daniel Reyes. On a 1-2 pitch, the right-hander snuck a line drive inside the first base line that rolled into the right field corner for a bases-clearing triple. Brady Policelli followed with a short fly ball that fell inside the left field line and rolled into the corner for his own run-scoring triple.
Garcia (L, 0-1) ended the inning with a strikeout and added his ninth punchout before leaving the game with one out in the fourth. The 19-year-old allowed four earned runs on four hits and two walks in three and a third innings, throwing 44 of 70 pitches for strikes.
One of three Lakeland fielding errors allowed Welfrin Mateo to reach in the sixth and Tampa loaded the bases when Olivares and Cabrera both singled off RHP Billy Lescher. With two outs, the Flying Tigers brought in LHP Max Green, and Gilliam grounded an infield single to score Mateo, cutting the deficit to 4-2. Green struck out Steven Sensley to end the frame.
LHP Dalton Lehnen relieved Garcia in the fourth and kept Lakeland off the board until the sixth, when Zac Shepherd walked, stole second and scored on a two-out single by Athmann.
Jason Lopez and Olivares both walked against Green in the seventh and, with two outs, Lopez scored as Diego Castillo reached on an error by Shepherd at third base. Green struck out Cabrera to strand a pair.
Gilliam and Lopez both singled in the eighth, but RHP Jason Foley struck out Tyler Hill to strand two more Tarpons. Tampa would leave eight runners on base for the game.
Lehnen tallied three strikeouts in two and two-third innings. RHP Kyle Zurak worked around a pair of hits and collected three strikeouts to put up zeros in the seventh and eighth innings.
Mateo reached on an error to open the ninth, but RHP Wladimir Pinto (SV, 1) got a fly out by Olivares and a double play groundout by Castillo to end the game.
Detroit RHP Drew VerHagen (W, 1-0) used 10 pitches to get three groundouts in a 1-2-3 inning in the fifth and earned the win as part of a rehab assignment. Jones (1-for-4, 2B) batted leadoff and played centerfield for all nine innings in his first rehab game.
Olivares (1-for-2, 3BB, R) reached base four times. Gilliam (3-for-4, 2B, RBI) and Cabrera (2-for-4, RBI) both recorded multi-hit games.
The four-game series continues at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. RHP Glenn Otto (0-0, -.--) is scheduled to make his Tarpons debut, getting the start against Lakeland RHP Elvin Rodriguez (0-0, -.--). Live play-by-play audio will be available on the Tampa Tarpons Baseball Network.
Along with it being the home opener, Saturday is also Youth Sports Celebration Night. Fans will witness a youth sports pregame parade and performances on the field. The first 1,000 fans will receive a t-shirt, courtesy of Pepsi. Following the game, fans are invited to stay for a firework show, sponsored by Spectrum.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.