DETROIT — Miguel Cabrera is one hitter who can certainly be trusted to swing at a 3-0 pitch.
Cabrera hit a three-run homer on that count Sunday night, and it broke the game open in the seventh inning, helping the Detroit Tigers finish off a three-game sweep of the Atlanta Braves with an 8-3 victory. Austin Jackson and Omar Infante also homered for the Tigers, and Doug Fister struck out eight in seven innings on a rainy night at Comerica Park.
"You’ve got to make sure ‘Skip’ gives you the sign to swing. That’s when you decide to swing or not swing," Cabrera said. "That doesn’t mean you’re going to swing 3-0. You’ve got to make sure you get a good pitch to hit."
Atlanta’s Mike Minor (3-2) allowed a three-run homer to Jackson in the third, and although the Braves came back to tie it, Cabrera doubled and scored in the sixth to make it 4-3.
Infante hit a solo shot in the seventh, and Cabrera added an opposite-field homer on a 3-0 fastball by reliever Cory Gearrin.
"He’s the best I’ve ever seen, opposite-field power," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "A lot guys just don’t like to swing 3-0. I think they get caught where they don’t want to swing at a bad pitch. I think they get leery of it. … I’ve given the green light more in Detroit than any time I’ve ever managed in my life, but most guys don’t swing."
Cabrera extended his hitting streak to 12 games.
Atlanta has lost four straight and is 3-8 since a 12-1 start.
The NL East-leading Braves have a 2 1/2-game lead over Washington in the division, with a four-game series against the Nationals starting Monday.
Detroit won the three games in this series by a combined 25-7. Anibal Sanchez set a franchise record Friday with 17 strikeouts, and it looked as if Fister (4-0) might approach that Sunday when he fanned five in the first two innings.
"They’re really aggressive," Leyland said. "That’s the most aggressive team I’ve seen. Sometimes that bites you, but most of the time, they’re going to score runs, because they hit two- and three-run homers."
Atlanta manager Fredi Gonzalez shuffled his lineup before the game, giving struggling outfielder B.J. Upton the night off. It didn’t matter much. Aside from a three-run fourth, the Braves were quiet offensively, and Minor gave up six runs in 6 2-3 innings.
Jackson came to the plate with two on in the third and opened the scoring with a drive that cleared the fence and the bullpen in left-centre.
The Braves tied it the following inning. Chris Johnson hit an RBI double, and Evan Gattis drove in a run with a single to make it 3-2.
With men on first and third and one out, Dan Uggla hit what looked like a double play grounder, but Infante’s relay from second to first was a bit wide, and the Tigers got only one out on the play, allowing the tying run to score.
Victor Martinez’s sacrifice fly scored Cabrera to put Detroit ahead in the sixth. Minor got the first two outs of the seventh, but Infante hit his second homer in two days, and Jackson drew a walk to end Minor’s night.
Gearrin allowed Torii Hunter’s single and Cabrera’s homer to right — the third home run of the year for the Triple Crown winner.
"He hits the ball over the right-field fence like a left-handed pull hitter," Gonzalez said.
Fister, making his 100th career start, allowed three runs and six hits with no walks.
Minor allowed six hits, walked two and struck out six.
Jose Valverde made his third appearance for the Tigers since returning from the minors less than a week ago. After two saves in two chances, he came on in a non-save situation Sunday — with two on in the ninth and an 8-3 lead.
Valverde got the last three outs in order.
NOTES: The game was played amid a light, misty drizzle, and it started raining a little harder in the fourth, but there were no delays. … The Braves struck out 39 times in the series. … Detroit RHP Al Alburquerque pitched an inning-plus of eventful relief. He walked two, struck out three, hit a batter and threw two wild pitches. … Fister had two hit batsmen, bringing his season total to eight. … Detroit hosts Minnesota on Monday night. Max Scherzer (2-0) takes the mound for the Tigers against Mike Pelfrey (2-2). Atlanta’s Julio Teheran (1-0) is scheduled to start against Washington’s Stephen Strasburg (1-4).