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Braves tie Tigers, fall to Astros in split-squad action
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Braves second baseman Tommy La Stella throws to first after forcing out Astros’ Jose Altuve during a spring training game on Sunday in Kissimmee, Fla. - photo by Alex Brandon

KISSIMMEE, Fla — Detroit's Anibal Sanchez allowed one hit in two scoreless innings Sunday in a game that eventually ended in a 0-0, 10-inning tie between the Tigers and an Atlanta Braves split squad.

Sanchez was the American League's ERA leader last year, and he struck out 17 against Atlanta in an electrifying April outing. The Braves struck out only once this time in Sanchez's abbreviated start.

Ryan Doumit doubled to lead off the Atlanta second and went to third on a groundout by Chris Johnson that nearly hit Sanchez. The Detroit right-hander shook off that close call, striking out Dan Uggla and getting Joey Terdoslavich on a groundout to end the inning.

"I don't think too much about the situation right now," Sanchez said. "If Doumit scores or not ... right now, I work more on my command."

The 0-0 tie came one day after the Braves lost to Washington 16-15.

Braves: Left-hander Alex Wood, who is expected to compete for a job in the rotation, allowed three hits in two innings, striking out two.

Wood was helped by two double plays. Torii Hunter grounded into one in the first after Ezequiel Carrera and Victor Martinez hit back-to-back singles. The Tigers also had runners at first and second with one out in the second when Bryan Holaday lined into a double play.

"Last year, I came in with more of a sense of, 'I'm here to learn,'" said Wood, who made 31 appearances and 11 starts for Atlanta in 2013. "This year for me, I don't know if you'd call it a chip on your shoulder, but you come in here trying to win a job. Nothing's been given to me — they haven't told me anything.

"I'm just coming in here every day and trying to win a job. There aren't many things that I've tried to do in my baseball career that I haven't been able to achieve," he said.

Tigers: Sanchez said he was joking around with Johnson not long before he was nearly struck by the Atlanta third baseman's sharply hit ball up the middle.

"I said, 'Don't swing today!'" Sanchez said. "He swings, and he almost hit me."
It was a close call for Sanchez, but the play ended up as a groundout to second.

Detroit had seven hits to Atlanta's six, but this game stayed scoreless, in part because there were seven double plays. The Braves turned four of them.

There was also a baserunning blunder that ended an Atlanta rally in the sixth. Andrelton Simmons tried to go from first to third on Freddie Freeman's single to right. The relay beat Simmons by about 25 feet for the final out of the inning.

Detroit left-hander Robbie Ray, who was acquired from Washington in the deal that sent Doug Fister to the Nationals this offseason, pitched two innings. He allowed two hits and a walk, but he got Simmons to bounce into a double play with two on in the third, and Doumit grounded into one the following inning after Freeman's leadoff single.

Tigers ace Justin Verlander threw a 30-pitch bullpen session, and manager Brad Ausmus expects him to make his first start of the spring against a Philadelphia split squad Thursday.

Verlander had surgery in January following a groin injury.

"I think the feeling from the get-go was that, because of the type of shape he kept himself in, this was a guy that might have the ability to be back in time to start the regular season," Ausmus said. "It seems like he's on track for that right now."

Astros 7, Braves 4

Jarred Cosart pitched two shutout innings and Carlos Corporan had a pair of RBIs to lead the Houston Astros past the Atlanta Braves 7-4 in a split squad game on Sunday.

The Astros, who finished last season in last place in the American League West, went 51-111, their third straight year with 100 or more losses. The game marked the Astros spring home opener.

"I like what I've seen so far," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "We are playing great defensively and I like the way we are running the bases."

Jordan Schafer had two more hits for the Braves to raise his spring average to .455. Schafer, who stole 22 bases in 94 games for the Braves last season, is fighting for one of the final outfield spots.

Atlanta: David Hale pitched two innings and allowed two hits and an earned run while striking out three. Hale, who had a 0.82 ERA in two starts last year for the Braves, is fighting for a slot at the end of the Braves rotation.

Julio Teheran, Kris Medlen, and Mike Minor should have spots already locked up while Brandon Beachy and Alex Wood have the inside shot at the final two. Hale said he still thinks he can crack the rotation. "All I can do is my best," Hale said. "If I throw my best, I think I have a shot."

Houston: Cossert led the American League in ERA after his debut on July 12 of last season. He made a slight change in delivery during the offseason and said he felt the positive effect in his spring debut. "It felt a little strange at first, but everything is working out," Cossert said. "Stromie (pitching coach Brent Strom) worked with me and I'm starting lower with my delivery. It was great to get the first start out of the way."

Porter said he's noticed the change in Cossert's delivery. "It was a small change but one that seems to be working," Porter said. A lot of pitchers can get into trouble, but the thing about him is that he knows how to get out of it."

Braves: Right fielder Justin Upton went 0-for-1 with a walk in his spring debut. He had been battling tenderness in his right side.

Braves center fielder B.J. Upton slammed a long double off the top of the left-center field wall. It was his first hit in six at-bats this spring. Upton was supposed to join his brother, Justin Upton, to add power and speed to the top of the Atlanta lineup last year, but he struggled all season. He batted only .184 with nine homers and 26 RBIs.

Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez could have stayed back at Walt Disney World where the Braves were playing a split squad game against the Detroit Tigers, but he chose to make the road trip so he could get a look at Hale. He only brought four players who are expected to be in the starting lineup on opening day and David Carpenter is the only other pitcher expected to go north.

Astros pitcher Chad Qualls, who pitched in 66 games with a 2.61 ERA for the Miami Marlins, made his spring debut but allowed three hits and two earned runs in one inning.

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