Freddie Freeman, left, congratulates Braves teammate Justin Upton after Upton hit his major-league leading 12th home run of the season Saturday during a 7-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
DETROIT -- Rick Porcello didn’t have any lingering effects from the worst performance of his career.
Porcello recorded his first victory of the season with 6 1/3 solid innings as the Detroit Tigers beat the Atlanta Braves 7-4 at Comerica Park on Saturday. Porcello, who allowed three runs on five hits and collected five strikeouts, gave up nine runs in two-thirds of an inning in his previous outing against the Los Angeles Angels.
“The Anaheim game, I just had to wash it out of my memory,” said Porcello (1-2), who was making his fourth start. “I had some unfortunate things happen in Anaheim but I still felt like my stuff was good. Today, I finally got some better results.”
Porcello was sharp throughout spring training, beating out Drew Smyly for the final rotation spot. Until Saturday, there was no carryover. He brought a double-digit ERA into the game but only had one shaky inning -- the third, when the Braves scored all of their runs.
“Even that inning, with the exception of the two walks, I made some good pitches, got some ground balls and broke some bats,” he said. “I didn’t feel like I even threw the ball all that bad in that inning. They put up some runs and found some holes but throughout the course of the game, I just tried to stay down in the zone, sink the ball and change speeds. They’ve got an outstanding fastball-hitting lineup and you’ve got to keep the ball down and out of their sweet spot.”
While Porcello and three relievers held down the Braves’ attack, the bottom of Detroit’s lineup supplied most of the offense. Ninth-place hitter Omar Infante drove in three runs, including a tie-breaking two-run homer in the fourth, and No. 6 hitter Jhonny Peralta also had a two-run homer.
“Infante’s done a good job against us. He’s gotten three or four hits and some big RBIs,” Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “He seems to be a thorn in our side, even when he was playing with the (Miami) Marlins the last couple of years. It’s not an easy lineup to navigate through. It’s a lineup where if you don’t make a play and you give them an extra out or extra opportunity, they’re going to make you pay for it.”
The Braves’ Justin Upton hit his 12th homer in the eighth off Joaquin Benoit, increasing his franchise record for homers in the month of April. But Atlanta batters struck out 10 more times after striking out 18 times on Friday.
“I thought we had some pretty good at bats against (Porcello) early and maybe he just got comfortable out there,” Gonzalez said. “He wiggled out of some situations. Porcello made some pitches when he had to and got out of some of those jams.”
Kris Medlen (1-3) gave up five runs in 5 1/3 innings and took the loss. Jose Valverde notched his second save and Miguel Cabrera added two run-scoring singles as the Tigers handed the Braves their sixth loss in eight games before a sellout crowd of 42,881.
Detroit struck first on Peralta’s second homer of the season. Peralta smacked a hanging curveball with Victor Martinez on first during the second inning.
Atlanta pecked away at Porcello to gain a 3-2 lead in the third. Dan Uggla drew a bases-loaded, one-out walk for the first run. B.J. Upton tied it with an RBI fielder’s choice when second baseman Infante dropped the exchange. Freddie Freeman’s bloop single to center then brought home Andrelton Simmons.
The Tigers tied it in the bottom of the inning with three consecutive singles by Austin Jackson, Torii Hunter and Cabrera. Cabrera’s infield single could have easily been scored an error, as second baseman Uggla dropped a shovel toss from Simmons with his bare hand.
Infante put Detroit back on top 5-3 in the fourth with his first homer on a 0-2 pitch. His two-run blast came after Alex Avila drew a two-out walk.
“Everybody knows we’ve got a great lineup,” Infante said. “We’ve got speed, we’ve got power, we’ve got everything.”
Both sides quieted down until Upton’s homer. Infante reestablished the two-run advantage with an eighth-inning double off Luis Avilan and Cabrera made it 7-4 with a single that glanced off center fielder B.J. Upton’s glove.
NOTES: Martinez made his first appearance in the field this season, spelling Prince Fielder at first base. Martinez, who missed last season after undergoing knee surgery, started 20 of the first 21 games this season as the designated hitter. … Justin Upton is two homers shy of the major-league record of 14 in April, held by Albert Pujols (2006) and Alex Rodriguez (2007). … The Braves’ Mike Minor and the Tigers’ Doug Fister are scheduled to start the series finale on Sunday night. Fister will be making his 100th career start. … Atlanta’s all-time interleague record of 138-125 is the second-best winning percentage (.525) among National League teams behind St. Louis (125-110, .532). … Tigers manager Jim Leyland said the Braves’ aggressive power hitters facilitated Anibal Sanchez’s record-breaking performance on Friday. Sanchez struck out a franchise-record 17 batters in eight innings. “They burn you with the long ball,” he said. “They’re very aggressive and he pitched to their aggressiveness. That’s as good as it gets. One hundred and thirteen (years) and that’s the most ever. That pretty much sums it up right there.”