Outfielder collects two hits, plates go-ahead run; righty fans three in two frames
LAKELAND, Fla. -- The spring-opening home-and-home series between the Tigers and Braves ended up with two Detroit go-ahead rallies and a sweep. Torii Hunter and Austin Jackson hit RBI singles in a two-run fifth inning Thursday, sending the Tigers to another win with a 5-2 decision at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Jason Heyward provided the highlight of the afternoon with a tape-measure home run down the right-field line, the same area where he cleared the batting cage building four years ago on a mammoth drive off Max Scherzer. Thursday's shot off reliever Duane Below hit near the top of the roof on the building, giving Atlanta a 2-1 lead in the third, but the Tigers rallied for a second consecutive day.
Below followed Rick Porcello, who recovered from a Ryan Doumit first-inning RBI double by striking out the side in the second. Jose Iglesias tied it in the bottom half without a base hit, drawing a leadoff walk off Atlanta starter Kris Medlen, advancing to second on a hit-and-run play on an Andy Dirks groundout, reaching third on a wild pitch and scoring on Miguel Cabrera's groundout.
Detroit squandered a scoring opportunity following back-to-back singles in the fourth, but Iglesias -- batting leadoff for this game -- again sparked a rally by beating out an infield single to start the fifth. Miguel Cabrera's walk moved pinch-runner Devon Travis to second, where Travis scored easily on Hunter's ground ball through the right side.
Braves right-hander Wirfin Obispo regrouped with a James McCann flyout but fell behind on Jackson, batting sixth in this game instead of his usual leadoff spot. He centered a line drive that fell in front of center fielder B.J. Upton.
Porcello topped out at 94 mph on his fastball in his first outing of the spring, striking out three in two innings. Joba Chamberlain hit 90-92 mph on his fastball in relief, but commanded it to go with a biting slider. Medlen gave up two hits and the one run in two innings.
Gerald Laird left the game after one at-bat with back stiffness, but characterized the injury as minor.
Up next: The Tigers have their first of two split-squad days this spring on Friday. American League Cy Young Award winner Scherzer will stay in Lakeland for his first start of the spring in a 1:05 p.m. ET matchup against a Yankees lineup that's expected to include All-Stars Brian McCann, Carlos Beltran and Jacoby Ellsbury. MLB Gameday Audio will have the radio broadcast online, as will AM 1270 in Detroit. Meanwhile, Jose Alvarez will lead the travel squad to Clearwater for a 1:05 p.m. game against the Phillies at Bright House Networks Field that will be available on MLB.TV.