Right-hander starts strong before running into trouble; B.J. Upton, Schafer go deep
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Miguel Cabrera's three-run home run spoiled Aaron Harang's first appearance in a Braves uniform, sending Max Scherzer and the Tigers to a middle-inning comeback with a 9-3 win Thursday afternoon at Joker Marchant Stadium.
The game closes the Braves' Grapefruit League schedule with a 12-18-3 record. Detroit heads into its Spring Training finale Friday against the Rays with a 14-12-2 mark.
Three days after signing a one-year contract to shore up the injury-shortened Braves pitching staff, Harang took the mound for Atlanta and more than held his own. He had a lead thanks to Jordan Schafer, who scored on a Freddie Freeman sacrifice fly in the third inning before slugging a solo homer in the fifth.
Once B.J. Upton jumped a first-pitch Scherzer changeup and sent it to the top of the left-field berm for his first home run of the spring, the Braves had a 3-1 lead for Harang going into the bottom of the fifth. One swing from Cabrera erased it.
In a regular-season game, Cabrera probably wouldn't have had the chance to swing at all. Harang had runners at second and third with nobody out after a Bryan Holaday single and an Alex Gonzalez walk, but he had kept them there by retiring Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler. With first base open, Harang could have walked Cabrera and opted to face Victor Martinez.
In Spring Training, however, Harang pitched to Cabrera, who turned on a 1-1 pitch and sent it over the berm for his fourth home run of the spring and a 4-3 Detroit lead. Schafer's misplay an inning later on Holaday's single to center sent Austin Jackson around from first base for another run before Gonzalez doubled in Holaday for a 6-3 lead.
Tyler Collins put the game out of reach with a seventh-inning RBI triple.
Harang gave up six runs on eight hits over 5 2/3 innings, walking one and striking out two. Scherzer, who has a history of late-spring struggles on his way to regular-season readiness, submitted a solid start by allowing three runs (two earned) on four hits over 6 2/3 innings with six strikeouts.
Curt Powell padded the lead with a two-run single off Braves closer Craig Kimbrel in the eighth.
Up next: The Braves travel back to Georgia for a day off Friday before their annual Rising Stars Game against a team of top prospects on Saturday in Rome, Ga. Mike Minor is scheduled to start for the big club opposite right-hander Jason Hursh at 2:05 p.m. ET in a game that can be heard live on Gameday Audio.