KISSIMMEE, Fla. — The first game of spring training can provide some unusual scenarios.
Such as Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera facing Atlanta closer Craig Kimbrel — in the third inning.
Coming off baseball's first Triple Crown season since 1967, Cabrera grounded out against Kimbrel before finishing his day with a drive to the warning track in center field, not a factor as the Tigers beat the Braves 2-1 Friday in the opening exhibition game of the year between big league teams.
Cabrera, who led the AL with 44 homers, 139 RBIs, and a .330 average, got a chance to pose with Mickey and Minnie Mouse before batting practice, a nod to the game being played at the Braves' Disney World complex. Then, to chants of "MVP! MVP!" from the stands, he grounded out in the first against Tim Hudson.
In the third, Kimbrel took over for Hudson and promptly walked the first two hitters. The closer fanned Quinton Berry and got Omar Infante on a flyout before Cabrera stepped in again.
Kimbrel, coming off a season with 42 saves, 1.01 ERA, and 116 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings, doled out a steady stream of fastballs in the mid-90s. One of them went all the way to the backstop, allowing the runners to move up, but Cabrera grounded a 3-2 pitch to shortstop Andrelton Simmons that ended the threat.
The Tigers were hitless through seven innings but went ahead in the eighth, long after the starters had departed. Tyler Collins tripled to right-center off Ryan Buchter, and Jeff Kobernus followed with another triple to nearly the same spot. Hernan Perez's sacrifice fly brought home Kobernus.
Joey Terdoslavich homered for Atlanta in the ninth, and Ramiro Pena nearly tied it with a drive that was hauled in against the wall in left. Jose Alvarez retired Ernesto Mejia on a grounder with the potential tying run on base, earning the save. The win went to Jose Ortega, who threw a scoreless seventh. Buchter took the loss, surrendering three of Detroit's four hits in his lone inning.
"I'm not too concerned about the first game, but we played well," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.