MILWAUKEE -- For a couple fleeting moments, the Tigers looked ready to play spoilers in the Brewers' division race. The opportunity eluded their grasp like Ryan Braun's eighth-inning drive eluded Nicholas Castellanos' glove at the right-field fence.
"Ran back to the warning track, saw it, jumped up, felt it in my glove," Castellanos said. "My glove hit the top of the fence, and when I came back down, it wasn't in my glove. It kind of happened fast."
With Braun's unlikely eighth-inning home run, the Brewers had the lead they needed for a 6-5 win Friday night at Miller Park. And the Tigers, their late-inning magic from earlier in the season briefly re-ignited, were left with another end-game frustration in a rebuilding season.
"Our guys really played, man. They played," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "That was a great baseball game. They really got after it. Their guys are intense, of course, and we know what they're fighting for, but I was really happy with our effort and everything. It's just unfortunate how it ended up, because we played a really good ballgame against a really good team."
Detroit did so in as close to a postseason atmosphere as it's going to get. Though the Tigers have long been out of contention, they had been looking at this season-ending series for more than a week, knowing the Brewers could need these games to sew up a postseason spot for a division title.
Milwaukee has already clinched at least a Wild Card spot, but it spent Friday trying to stay within a game of the division-leading Cubs. It's an odd position, the Tigers playing meaningful games in the National League Central race, but they responded Friday.
"We hung with them," reliever Alex Wilson said. "They took their punches. They took ours. It was a fun game to be a part of."
Detroit, held dormant after a five-single, three-run outburst in the first inning, came to life in the top of the eighth with Dawel Lugo's first Major League home run. His game-tying two-run drive was the Tigers' first pinch-hit homer in two years, and it came off a 96-mph fastball from All-Star Brewers reliever Josh Hader.
"Unbelievable," Gardenhire said. "This time of year, a kid like that, in this atmosphere, and he bangs one out like that. It's just incredible."
Lugo, who had promised his father that he would hit a home run for him, was less incredulous, saying he was ready for the fastball in a full count.
Braun, who hit a game-tying homer off Wisconsin native Jordan Zimmermann in the first inning to erase what was once a 3-0 Detroit lead, answered leading off the bottom of the eighth. Castellanos, who has become more comfortable playing at the fence as his first full season in right field has unfolded, had a good read and lined up for a leaping attempt. But while Castellanos had the hang time to reach over the right-field fence, he couldn't hang on.
"If he doesn't put a glove on it, it doesn't go over the fence," Brewers manager Craig Counsell said. "We caught a break."
The ball popped out and rolled along the top of the fence before falling over, into the arms of a startled fan and out of sight of a visibly frustrated right fielder.
"Frustrating," Castellanos said. "But what are you going to do besides come and play tomorrow?"
MOMENT THAT MATTERED
The Tigers took a 3-0 lead in the first inning on five consecutive one-out singles against Brewers starter Zach Davies, the last three of them seeing-eye ground balls. Of the five, only James McCann's RBI single through the left side had an exit velocity over 73 mph, according to Statcast™.
Lugo's home run was the first pinch-hit homer by a Tigers hitter since Victor Martinez stepped off the bench to hit one on Sept. 22, 2016, at Minnesota. Detroit hit seven pinch-hit home runs that season but none in 2017.
Lugo, meanwhile, became the first Tiger to hit his first Major League home run as a pinch-hitter since Tyler Collins on Sept. 1, 2014.
HE SAID IT
"At this point it's all about fighting and going about it the right way. Wins and losses, to us, yeah we want to win the game, but it's the process of playing the game the right way, which is what we're focusing on now." -- Castellanos
Daniel Norris (0-5, 5.22 ERA) gets one more chance at a win this season as the Tigers' series against the Brewers continues on Saturday with a 7:10 p.m. ET game at Miller Park. Norris is trying to avoid becoming the first Tigers starter since Scott Aldred in 1996 to go winless in a season with at least eight starts. Wade Miley (5-2, 2.32) is slated to start for the Brewers.