Garcia comes out strong in rain-shortened defeat
Braves starter tosses two perfect innings; club loses lead in ninth before game called
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.
"For the first game, it wasn't as good as we wanted," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "It was a little sloppy out there both ways. But it's the first game of Spring Training, and we forget sometimes that it's still February."
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.
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: Kris Medlen will make his Grapefruit League season debut when the Braves travel to Lakeland, Fla., for Thursday afternoon's 1:05 p.m. ET game against the Tigers, live on Gameday Audio. Medlen, who is expected to be Atlanta's Opening Day starter, is scheduled to pitch two innings. Luis Avilan and David Carpenter are among the pitchers who will follow Medlen. Jason Heyward, B.J. Upton, Jordan Schafer and Gerald Laird are among the position players the Braves are planning to take on the trip.
Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.