DETROIT -- On the first night of the Tigers' 50th anniversary celebration of their 1968 World Series win over the Cardinals, Jeimer Candelario provided some new dramatics for the current Tigers against St. Louis' best.
As Candelario's opposite-field loft carried over the left-field fence for a two-run walk-off home run, the Tigers third baseman had done more than carry his team to its fourth win in five games with a 5-3 victory over the Cardinals on Friday night at Comerica Park. He had sent a ball out against rookie phenom Jordan Hicks, something only Jason Heyward had done this season.
"I had a good swing right there," Candelario told FOX Sports Detroit. "Thank God it went out."
But not even Heyward could claim what Candelario did. The first-pitch fastball, on which Candelario connected, registered at 102.1 mph on Statcast™, more than two mph faster than any other ball hit out in the Major Leagues this season. Moreover, it's the third-hardest fastball hit for a homer since pitch-tracking began in 2008.
"They've got a bullpen that's second to none as far as arm strength and everything," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said, "and we've got some guys. It just gets to who's going to make a bad pitch, and I don't know if that was a bad pitch or not. We just put the barrel on a couple of them."
If that wasn't enough, the Comerica Park crowd Candelario sent into a frenzy included his father and his wife. As teammate Niko Goodrum dumped a bottle of water on him on a cool night in Detroit, even he had trouble believing what he'd done.
"Man, it's a blast," Candelario said on the FOX Sports Detroit postgame show. "This moment is unbelievable. This is for these guys, for the fans and my family here in town."
One guy who didn't have trouble believing it was the pitcher who gave it up.
"I mean, he's a professional baseball player," Hicks said, "so I'm not surprised by that, no."
For a Cardinals team in the thick of contention, currently holding the second National League Wild Card spot, and a Tigers team mathematically eliminated from American League postseason contention with Cleveland's win Thursday night, they played even for most of Friday night. The battle of the bullpens came down to a couple swings off Hicks in his second inning of work.
Though Daniel Norris struck out seven batters over five innings in his second start back from the disabled list, a pair of Marcell Ozuna solo homers and a Francisco Pena sacrifice fly left the left-hander with a no-decision for his troubles. By contrast, Nicholas Castellanos' two-run single in the fifth off Cardinals starter Austin Gomber completed a game-tying, two-out rally built on a bunt single, a line-drive single and a walk.
Four Tigers relievers kept the game tied with scoreless innings, including Shane Greene (3-6) in the ninth. Hicks (3-4) entered in the eighth inning with a 3-3 game and retired the first four batters he faced before Victor Reyes' opposite-field line-drive single against the shift put the winning run on base. Candelario, who had two singles and two strikeouts earlier in the night, came up swinging against Hicks and connected.
"He has some bad at-bats like everybody does," Gardenhire said, "but he's a strong kid. He can hit the ball in the seats. It's a growing process for him. He just kind of let his hands follow through there and got the barrel out. And the guy throwing hard took care of the rest."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
The four scoreless innings of Tigers relief included a big out for lefty Daniel Stumpf, who entered in the seventh with a leadoff runner on first but had to face National League MVP candidate Matt Carpenter with the go-ahead run on third. Stumpf could've opted to face rookie right-handed hitter Yairo Munoz after falling behind on a 3-1 count, but executed back-to-back sliders at the knees before getting an inning-ending groundout on a 3-2 fastball. Stumpf has allowed neither an earned run nor an inherited runner to score in 8 1/3 innings since his recall from Triple-A Toledo on Aug. 19.
"He kind of makes their offense go," catcher James McCann said, "and we did not want him to be the guy to beat us. We have to make our pitch, and if he takes his walk or he hits our pitch for a base hit, we can live with that. That was the best sliders he threw all night long, and then he doubled up and threw another one really good."
With 18 home runs this season, Candelario needs two more to become the first Tigers player with 20 homers in his age-24 season or younger since Tony Clark (27) and Melvin Nieves (24) in 1996.
HE SAID IT
"I didn't see it happening. I wanted it more than anything, but as rehab went on and on, I felt like I was a little stuck getting through the recovery, trying to feel like I could actually pitch. Thank goodness I turned a corner." -- Norris, on his first start at Comerica Park since undergoing groin surgery at the end of April
The Tigers' 50th anniversary celebration of their 1968 World Series championship team continues Saturday, when they don their '68 throwback road jerseys for their 6:10 p.m. ET game against the Cardinals at Comerica Park. Matthew Boyd (9-12, 4.24 ERA), who holds a 2.56 ERA at Comerica, gets the start looking to continue his home stinginess opposite rookie right-hander Jack Flaherty (8-6, 2.83).