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Hot-hitting Tigers sweep Braves

The SportsXchange

DETROIT -- The Detroit Tigers came into their much-anticipated interleague series with the Atlanta Braves as a .500 team. They came out of it looking like the World Series contenders that many expect them to be this season.

Austin Jackson and Miguel Cabrera hit three-run homers Sunday, and Doug Fister collected his fourth victory as the Tigers completed a three-game sweep of the Braves with an 8-3 victory at Comerica Park.

Omar Infante also homered for the Tigers, who outscored the Braves 25-7 in the series.

"It's a huge confidence booster for our whole team, knowing we can play together and do what we need to do," Fister said.

Fister (4-0) fought through misty conditions to pitch seven strong innings, giving up three runs on six hits while striking out eight without a walk. Detroit's pitchers combined for 39 strikeouts in the series, even though ace Justin Verlander and fellow flamethrower Max Scherzer didn't start.

Perhaps the Tigers caught the Braves at the right time. Atlanta (15-9) was at the tail end of a 10-game trip in which it went 3-7.

"Over the course of 162 games, you're going to go through road trips like this," Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. "Now, we've got to get ready to be home for seven days or so, get in some work we need to get done and get it going again."

Victor Martinez's sacrifice fly in the sixth put Detroit on top 4-3. Cabrera scored the go-ahead run after extending his hitting streak to 12 games with a leadoff, ground-rule double and advancing on Prince Fielder's groundout.

"Our guys play the small ball when we need it, and then they put up a lot of runs with a couple of home runs," Fister said. "That's the wide attributes that we have. We have a very well-rounded group of hitters."

Detroit took control with a four-run seventh. Infante gave the Tigers some breathing room with a solo shot off Mike Minor (3-2). It was Infante's second homer in as many games, and his second of the season. Three batters later, Cabrera ripped a 3-0 pitch to the opposite field off Cory Gearrin for his third homer.

"Very impressive," Martinez said of Cabrera's at-bat. "He does things every night where he just makes it look so easy. It's a blessing just to play with him."

Gonzalez expected something bad to happen when Gearrin fell behind Cabrera.

"The guy that hits third for them won the Triple Crown, and he doesn't miss those opportunities," Gonzalez said. "You bring in Gearrin to face Torii Hunter (who singled) and Cabrera, and Miggy knows exactly what he wants to do. He's not going to give in, and he's going to hit the ball to right field. He hits the ball over the right field fence like a left-handed pull hitter."

Tigers closer Jose Valverde, enjoying a career revival after being activated earlier in the week, got the last three outs. He hasn't allowed a baserunner in three appearances.

Atlanta's Chris Johnson, the National League's leading hitter, had two hits, including an RBI double. He's batting .387.

Minor cruised through the first two innings but got into trouble in the third by issuing a one-out walk to No. 8 hitter Brayan Pena. Infante followed with a sharp single to left before Jackson blasted his second homer this season over the left-center-field fence on a 1-1 pitch.

"He got everything started," Martinez said of Jackson. "He set up everything. They came back and tied the game, but we kept battling, and at the end, we broke away."

The Braves tied the game at 3 in the fourth. After Fister got the first out, Justin Upton singled and Freddie Freeman was hit by a pitch. Johnson slapped an opposite-field double for the Braves' first run, and Evan Gattis followed with an RBI single. Dan Uggla's fielder's choice evened the score when second baseman Infante pulled first baseman Fielder off the bag on a potential double-play ball.

Otherwise, Detroit's fielding was stellar, as it had been throughout the series.

"The biggest key was the defense playing well and picking me up, especially in the wet conditions," Fister said. "I know it's tough to pick up the ball and make the play. That was the number one thing, and obviously after that, our hitters just keep on getting better and better."

NOTES: Detroit is 84-45 in interleague games since the start of the 2006 season. Boston (84-42) is the only team with a better interleague record during that span. ... Both teams return to league play Monday. The Braves begin a four-game home series against the Washington Nationals, while the Tigers complete an eight-game homestand with three against the Minnesota Twins. ... Atlanta center fielder B.J. Upton did not play Sunday. He is batting .151 with 30 strikeouts through 86 at-bats. ... Gonzalez used a different lineup in all 10 games of the road trip. ... Braves left fielder Justin Upton has 12 home runs this season. He hit his 12th for the Arizona Diamondbacks on Sept. 1 last season. ... Hunter and Cabrera are both batting .375, tied for the AL lead.
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