ATLANTA -- The Tigers control their playoff fate once again. It could take them to a makeup game in Detroit, a tiebreaker in Toronto and the Wild Card Game in Baltimore, but it's theirs to control again, without any help.Detroit rode Miguel Cabrera's two home runs and Daniel Norris' power
ATLANTA -- The Tigers control their playoff fate once again. It could take them to a makeup game in Detroit, a tiebreaker in Toronto and the Wild Card Game in Baltimore, but it's theirs to control again, without any help.
Detroit rode Miguel Cabrera's two home runs and Daniel Norris' power fastball to within a half-game of Toronto in the American League Wild Card race, taking a 6-2 win over the Braves Friday night. The Tigers' third consecutive win closed the gap on the Blue Jays, who lost at Boston, while the Orioles remained a game ahead of the Tigers by beating the Yankees. If the Tigers remain within a half-game after Sunday's series finale, they'll return home to make up their rained-out game against Cleveland on Monday for a chance at a Wild Card tiebreaker on Tuesday.
"It's beneficial," said Tigers third baseman Nick Castellanos. "It still doesn't change the fact that we have to go out and win. Even if we didn't control our own destiny, we have to go out and win."
While the Tigers' arrival for an Interleague series on the final weekend of the regular season to close out Turner Field was a unique sight, Cabrera's power display looked familiar. His first-inning drive to straightaway center followed Ian Kinsler's leadoff homer to build a 3-0 lead after eight pitches from Braves starter Matt Wisler (7-13). Cabrera led off the third with even longer drive, and Justin Upton capped the scoring with a seventh-inning solo homer in his old home park.
"We've had spells like that during the season," manager Brad Ausmus said of his offense's outburst. "Maybe it's because they see what's in front of them, they see an opportunity. Maybe it's good luck in terms of timing. Who knows, but either way, I like it."
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Norris (4-2) cooled off a Braves team that had won 10 of its last 11 games. The lefty thwarted Braves threats in the second and third, then got on a roll, allowing a lone hit and two walks over a 17-batter stretch, including five consecutive strikeouts through the middle of the Braves order. He was an out away from seven scoreless innings when Brandon Snyder hit a pinch-hit homer on his career-high 114th pitch.
"That kid threw the ball good," said Braves manager Brian Snitker about Norris. "He was kind of effectively wild sometimes, and we just had a hard time getting anything going."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Kinsler opens with record-breaking bash: Kinsler just missed sending the first pitch of the game out to left, sending it foul. Four pitches later, he sent another drive to left-center, lining it over the fence for his 28th home run of the season to tie Lou Whitaker's single-season record for a Tigers second baseman. Kinsler's eighth leadoff home run of the season set a new single-season record for a Tiger, passing Curtis Granderson.
Three times is not always a charm: Wisler was effective in four of the six starts he made after returning from his demotion to Triple-A Gwinnett, but this was not the kind of lasting impression he wanted to make for a team that has already indicated he'll have to fight for a rotation spot next year. It's not unusual to serve up a couple of long balls to Cabrera, but this has been the knock against Wisler, who surrendered three home runs in five of his final 16 starts. He allowed the Tigers five earned runs and nine hits in 4 2/3 innings.
"I had some really good starts and some really good runs," Wisler said. "I also had some really bad starts and some really bad runs. So, I think I proved I can pitch up here, but I've also proved I can be very inconsistent and when I'm bad, I'm really bad for stretches. Going forward, if I get a chance to be up here, I have to prove I can be consistent."
Miggy mash: Cabrera played the divisional villain well at Turner Field during his Marlins years. He took that to another level Friday, sending first- and third-inning homers to nearly the exact same spot, projected by Statcast™ at 410 and 421 feet off a fastball and changeup, respectively. Add in his go-ahead shot in the fifth inning Wednesday night, and he homered in three consecutive plate appearances, part of a 10-for-11, four-homer tear since midway through Monday's loss to Cleveland.
"For him, it's pretty normal," Ausmus said. "He's a standard offensively that few have ever equaled in the history of the game." More >
Surging offense silenced: The Braves had averaged 5.8 runs over their previous 27 games before struggling against Norris. Tyler Flowers and Dansby Swanson produced consecutive two-out singles in the second, but Atlanta did not score until Snyder chased Norris with his fourth homer of the season. Matt Kemp's solo shot in the eighth inning increased his homer total to 35, 12 of which have been hit within the 54 games played since joining the Braves.
"After I got hit in the hand, Brad was like, 'Can you swing?' I was like, 'I'm not really sure. I'll probably just drag bunt.' He said, 'Don't drag bunt, because I don't want you running that hard to first again.'" -- Norris, who was hit on his glove hand trying to backhand a comebacker in the fifth
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Cabrera now has three two-homer games against the Braves. He produced his first on July 1, 2003, when he homered off Mike Hampton and Roberto Hernandez in a 20-1 Marlins victory.
Atlanta's right-handed reliever Tyrell Jenkins exited after he felt some tingling in his right arm during the eighth inning. The Braves termed the ailment as ulnar neuritis and said Jenkins will be re-evaluated on Saturday.
Jenkins opted not to talk to reporters before he made a quick exit from the clubhouse. Ulnar neuritis often leads to tingling in the hand. It is essentially a pinched nerve in the elbow.
"We'll just have to let the doctors look at him," Snitker said. "Hopefully it's nothing serious."
Tigers:Jordan Zimmermann (9-6, 4.88 ERA) will wrap up his first regular season as a Tiger by renewing acquaintances with an old National League East foe from his Nationals days when he takes on the Braves in a 7:10 p.m. ET start at Turner Field. It'll be Zimmermann's first start in three weeks and his third start since the end of June, having been sidelined by neck issues before being hamstrung by pitching struggles.
Braves:Aaron Blair will make his final start when Atlanta and Detroit resume this three-game series on Saturday. Blair's stock has fallen over the course of this season, but the once highly regarded prospect will have a chance to make one more strong impression against a potent lineup.
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Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.
Mark Bowman has covered the Braves for MLB.com since 2001.