Perez's big hit gives Tigers late lead; rain seals win
Second baseman drives go-ahead two-run single in ninth; Martinez adds two RBIs
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Hernan Perez's ninth-inning, two-out, two-run single off Shae Simmons enabled the Tigers to overcome four errors and open the Grapefruit League season with a 6-5 win over the Braves on Wednesday afternoon at Champion Stadium. The game was called due to rain with two outs in the ninth.
With resumption in question, the Braves asked the Elias Sports Bureau for a ruling and said Elias stated that the Tigers were declared the winner. The decision wasn't questioned by either side.
Ernesto Mejia recorded two doubles and Dan Uggla contributed a pair of singles for the Braves.
Mejia opened the seventh with a double down the left-field line and advanced to third base when Jose Constanza reached on a fielder's choice that was gloved by pitcher Eduardo Sanchez. Catcher John Murrian's errant attempt to prevent Constanza from stealing second base allowed Mejia to score and put Constanza in position to jog home on Todd Cunningham's sacrifice fly.
Backed by the two perfect innings completed by starting pitcher Freddy Garcia, the Braves held a 2-1 lead before the lead changed hands three times during the sixth and seventh innings. Atlanta's slim advantage came courtesy of Evan Gattis' two-out third-inning double off Justin Miller and Uggla's second-inning single off Detroit starter Drew Smyly, who retired the first five batters he faced before allowing Chris Johnson to lace a two-out double down the left-field line.
The Tigers gained a brief lead with a two-run sixth inning against Hector Daniel Rodriguez. Victor Martinez fueled the sixth with a game-tying single that scored Ian Kinsler, who had walked to open the inning. Martinez also scored Rajai Davis with a fourth-inning single off Ryan Buchter.
"We hope we can use some of our leg assets in terms of running the bases and maybe defensively," manager Brad Ausmus said of his team's baserunning. "But I think it's the frame of mind that we have to change before it becomes a real factor, a frame of mind of wanting to go the extra 90, extra 180 feet, forcing the defense to make a play on you."
Ramiro Pena erased Atlanta's one-run deficit with a two-out double off Evan Reed in the sixth inning. Pena's double to left scored Tommy La Stella, who reached on an infield single and advanced to second base on second baseman Perez's throwing error.
Up next: The Tigers and Rick Porcello will welcome the Braves to Joker Marchant Stadium for the Lakeland, Fla., end of this home-and-home series Thursday afternoon with a 1:05 p.m. ET start, live on Gameday Audio. Porcello's first start of the spring will feature shortstop Jose Iglesias behind him, plus Miguel Cabrera at first base. Detroit's projected Opening Day outfield of Torii Hunter, Austin Jackson and Andy Dirks is also expected to start, while the late-inning relief trio of Joe Nathan, Bruce Rondon and Joba Chamberlain is on the pitching list.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.