By The Sports Xchange
ATLANTA — Nothing that veteran slugger Miguel Cabrera does really surprises Detroit manager Brad Ausmus these days. Not even another two-home run night.
“For him it’s pretty normal,” Ausmus said. “He set a standard offensively that few have ever met.”
The Detroit first baseman hit a pair of home runs Friday and left-hander Daniel Norris threw 6 2/3 strong innings to keep the Tigers’ playoff hopes alive with a 6-2 victory over the Atlanta Braves at Turner Field.
Detroit remained alive in its pursuit of an American League wild card spot. The Tigers (86-73) are one-half game behind Toronto, which lost to Boston, and remain 1 1/2 games behind Baltimore, which beat New York.
“I had one eye on the scoreboard,” Ausmus said. “We do appreciate the help, but we’ve got to take care of business for ourselves.”
Cabrera hit a two-run homer in the first inning and a solo shot in the third, his 37th and 38th of the season, in recording the 39th multi-homer game of his career and sixth of 2016. Cabrera has 308 homers as a Tiger, moving past Hank Greenberg into third place on the team’s career list.
Cabrera was 3-for-5 with three runs scored and three RBIs.
“He’s always going to be one of the greatest hitters on the planet,” Ausmus said. “I don’t think it’s a bad thing when one of the greatest hitters becomes more interested (because of the playoffs).”
Norris (4-2) recorded his longest stint of the season. He scattered five hits, walked two and struck out eight. Norris threw a season-high 114 pitches and lost his shutout when Atlanta’s Brandon Snyder hit a pinch-hit homer, his fourth, in the seventh that finished his night.
“Once and a while there was that errant throw, but he’s definitely making progress,” Ausmus said. “If he continues to make progress on his mechanics, his stuff will play.”
The Braves got a solo homer from Matt Kemp, his 35th, in the eighth off reliever Bruce Rondon.
Detroit’s Francisco Rodriguez pitched a scoreless ninth inning, striking out the side, in a non-save situation.
“To be honest, it wasn’t to get him an inning, we needed to win the game,” Ausmus said. “I know it wasn’t a save, but to me a four-run difference was a save.”
The Tigers also got home runs from Ian Kinsler, his 28th, and Justin Upton, his 30th. Upton, who played for the Braves in 2013-14, was 3-for-4 to help pace the 11-hit attack.
The loss was only the second in 12 games for the Braves (66-93).
The losing pitcher was Matt Wisler (7-13). The right-hander lasted 4 2/3 innings and allowed five runs on nine hits — three of them home runs. He struck out three and walked one.
“I didn’t command the ball very well tonight,” Wisler said. “I made mistakes that you can’t make.”
Atlanta reliever Tyrell Jenkins pitched two-thirds of an inning and suffered an undisclosed injury after throwing one pitch to Cabrera. The trainer came to the mound and, after a brief discussion, took Jenkins to the clubhouse. Jenkins left the stadium without discussing the injury, other than to say he felt a “tingling” in his upper right arm.
The Tigers came out swinging in the top of the first and scored three quick runs against Wisler. Ian Kinsler hit a leadoff homer and Miguel Cabrera followed with a two-run shot after Cameron Maybin’s single.
Cabrera struck again in the third inning when he led off the inning with a solo homer
“You can’t make mistakes with location with this team,” Atlanta manager Brian Snitker said. “Looked like a lot of center-cut fastballs that got smoked.”
The Tigers took a 5-0 lead by tacking on a run in the fifth. James McCann lined an RBI single to score Cabrera, which chased Wisler.
Norris nearly suffered an odd injury in the fifth inning. Adonis Garcia hit a line drive up the middle and Norris swiped at the ball as he followed through. The ball hit him near the back of his wrist in the area covered by his glove and bounced high to second baseman Kinsler, who had no play. Norris stayed in the game after being cleared by the trainer.
NOTES: The Tigers announced they will make up their postponed game with the Indians on Monday at 1:10 p.m., but only if it has playoff implications for Detroit or seeding for Cleveland. Detroit will start RHP Michael Fullmer (11-7, 3.06 ERA) if the game is needed. … Atlanta 1B Freddie Freeman had his 30-game hitting streak snapped on Thursday. He became only the ninth player in history to have a 30-game hitting streak and hit at least 30 home runs in a season. … The pitching matchup for Saturday’s game is Detroit RHP Jordan Zimmermann (9-6, 4.88) versus Atlanta RHP Aaron Blair (1-7, 8.02).