The Braves’ inspired recent stretch of baseball hit pause Friday night when they saw one of their young pitchers, Matt Wisler, give up three homers in less than five innings, and watched another, Tyrell Jenkins, leave the game after feeling a tingling sensation in his pitching arm.
Wisler allowed five runs in 4 2/3 innings of a 6-2 series-opening loss to the Detroit Tigers that was just the second defeat in 11 games for the Braves. Miguel Cabrera had two home runs for the Tigers, who hit four in all as they kept alive their bid for a wild-card berth.
“He didn’t locate his fastball,” Braves interim manager Brian Snitker said of Wisler (7-13). “Center-cut too much pitches. You can’t make mistakes and miss location with this team, I tell you that right now.”
Jenkins, a rookie who came on in relief in the eighth inning, left after a first-pitch ball to the fourth batter he faced. Snitker said Jenkins reported a “tingling sensation.” The initial diagnosis is ulnar neuritis, or inflammation of the ulnar nerve. Jenkins will be reevaluated.
After facing three batters in the eighth inning — he got two fly out and allowed a single — Jenkins threw a first-pitch ball to the fourth batter, Cabrera. Jenkins then slumped and dangle his arm to his side after walking behind the mound. Braves trainer Jim Lovell and Snitker came out to check on him and Jenkins was replaced.
Seven pitches into the game, before some in a crowd of 41,500 had even made it through Atlanta traffic and found their seats, Wisler had given up three runs on three hits including home runs by Ian Kinsler and Cabrera.
Cabrera added another homer in the third inning for the Tigers, who have won eight of 11 games and started the day 1 ½ games back in the American League wild-card race.
“Once again I kind of made some mistakes (over the) middle,” Wisler said. “With this team you can’t make mistakes like that.”
The Braves trailed 6-0 before getting home runs from pinch-hitter Brandon Snyder in the seventh inning and Matt Kemp in the eighth. Kemp has 35 homers and 108 RBIs, including 12 homers and 39 RBIs in 54 games since being traded to the Braves.
Wisler was charged with nine hits, five runs and two walks with three strikeouts in 4 2/3 innings, raising his ERA to an even 5.00 in 27 games including 26 starts. The 23-year-old, in his first full season, gave up 26 homers including 15 homers in 94 1/3 innings at Turner Field.
“I had some good starts, some really good starts, some really good runs,” Wisler said of his season. “And I also had some really bad starts and some really bad runs. I proved that I can pitch up here, but I also proved that I can be very inconsistent, and when I’m bad I’m really bad through stretches. Going forward, next year, if I have a chance to be up here, I’ve got to prove that I can be consistent and one or two bad starts is not going to affect me for a month like it did the last couple of years.”
Ex-Brave Justin Upton added three hits including his 30th homer, a seventh-inning shot off Brandon Cunniff that pushed Detroit’s lead to 6-0.
Snyder’s two-out homer in the seventh was his third pinch-hit homer this season and came on the 114th and final pitch by left-hander Daniel Norris (4-2), who gave up just five hits and two walks with eight strikeouts in 6 2/3 innings.
The Braves have two games left in the season and in the 20-year baseball lifespan of Turner Field, to be converted into a football stadium for Georgia State University with the Braves headed up I-75 to a new Cobb County ballpark in 2017.
After Kinsler led off Friday’s game with his 28th homer on a 1-2 fastball, 2015 Braves center fielder Cameron Maybin followed with a broken-bat single before Cabrera launched a two-run homer to straightaway center on a first-pitch, 93-mph fastball over the middle. Low-90s fastballs over the heart of the plate were not going to cut it against the Tigers.
Cabrera’s two-run homer in the first was the 37th this season for the future Hall of Famer, in his 10th season with at least 30 homers and 12th with more than 100 RBIs.
He didn’t wait long for homer No. 38. Leading off the third inning, Wisler got ahead in the count with a first-pitch change-up Cabrera swung through. When he threw another change-up with the count 1-1, Cabrera crushed it, sending it well over the 400 sign in straight center.
While just the second time Wisler allowed more than two runs in six starts since returning from a stint in Triple-A, it was the third time he got rocked in his last five home starts. He allowed three homers and seven runs in five innings of a July 28 loss to the Phillies, and gave up 10 hits and six runs in 4 1/3 innings of a Sept. 13 loss to the Marlins.