ATLANTA -- The Braves' era at Turner Field is over. So, too, is the Tigers' opportunity at the postseason.
Once again, Justin Verlander was stingy with the season on the line. This time, however, his opposing starter was stingier. And after 12 strikeouts from Braves ace Julio Teheran in a 1-0 win Sunday, the Tigers were eliminated from playoff contention.
Detroit needed a win Sunday along with a loss from either the Blue Jays or Orioles to extend its season in hopes of earning an American League Wild Card spot. The first part was the challenge in front of them, and Teheran answered, sending Tigers batters chasing high fastballs through the late afternoon shadows. His 12 strikeouts tied his season high, a day after Braves rookie starter Aaron Blair struck out a career-best 10 Tigers over six innings.
"I know he's very tough on right-handed hitters," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of Teheran, "and unfortunately we're a right-handed lineup. But we have good right-handed hitters. He had his stuff working today. Really, the story was him."
Verlander did his part to answer, but Freddie Freeman's first-inning sacrifice fly stood as the difference. Verlander struck out eight over seven innings, finishing his renaissance season with a 3.04 ERA. It was the Tigers' third 1-0 loss this season with Verlander on the mound.
"There was a lot of pitching and a lot of history in this ballpark," Freeman said. "For it to go down as a 1-0 game between Julio and Verlander, that was a fitting ending for this ballpark."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED A fond farewell: Teheran entered Sunday's game with a 1-6 record and a 3.84 ERA in 17 home starts this season. The right-hander made the most of his final outing at Turner Field, though, allowing only three hits over seven scoreless innings. The Tigers threatened to score in the second, when Teheran issued a one-out walk to Nick Castellanos to put runners on first and second. But Atlanta's ace escaped the jam unscathed with a strikeout and a lineout. Only two more runners reached against Teheran, who reached 95 mph with his fastball and finished with a 3.21 ERA.
"[I was feeling] a lot of emotions," Teheran said. "My friends, the crowd and the emotions you're feeling in that place right now, it was unbelievable. I think I came with my best stuff, and I wanted to do this. Everybody was excited, and I'm glad I had my stuff. I couldn't make it any better than that."
Verlander keeps them close: The pitching duel left Verlander victimized by Freeman's sacrifice fly, but he avoided a second such tally with some strategic pitching in the seventh after Adonis Garcia singled, stole second and reached third on a James McCann throwing error. Verlander struck out Matt Kemp on a offspeed pitch that ducked off the plate, intentionally walked Nick Markakis, then sent a 96-mph fastball past Tyler Flowers for a called third strike.
"I know I pitched well," Verlander said, "but it doesn't make me feel any better right now." More >
Another eighth-inning escape: After Jose Iglesias opened the eighth with a double, Jose Ramirez struck out pinch-hitter Victor Martinez, then induced an Ian Kinsler liner that shortstop Dansby Swanson snared before throwing to second base to double up Iglesias. The Tigers loaded the bases to begin Saturday's eighth and saw that threat end when Swanson began a nifty double play after diving to grab J.D. Martinez's sharp grounder.
"Huge defensive play," said Braves manager Brian Snitker about Swanson's defensive gem. "I have a feeling that's going to be the norm with that kid. The bigger the situation, the bigger he's going to come up. You feel really really good when he's out there."
Said Kinsler: "I didn't hit it great, but anytime you can hit a ball on the line, you think it's got a chance to find a hole. It just didn't."
Caught looking at season's end: The Tigers had one last chance to extend their season once Miguel Cabrera hit an opposite-field single off former teammate Jim Johnson with one out. Johnson struck out J.D. Martinez on three pitches, all fastballs, then recovered from a 3-1 count to Justin Upton with back-to-back called strikes, including a full-count fastball over the plate for the 15th strikeout of the afternoon. The Tigers were held to three runs over their final two games.
"I'm not going to worry about it now," Ausmus said of the strikeouts, "because it doesn't really mean anything."
"We were dead in the water in a lot of people's minds in July, and the guys played hard, and continued to play hard all the way through the last game. ... For that, I'm real proud of them. They got us back in the race. We were the last American League team standing in the playoff picture, and it's the last day of the season." -- Ausmus
"You could tell he was jacked. You could just see it was going to be his day, too. He knew what he was up against and we knew what we were up against. It wasn't going to be easy. It's a great way to put the ol' girl to bed." -- Snitker, on Teheran's performance in the final game at Turner Field
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Verlander's fifth-inning strikeout of Swanson was his 250th of the season, the first time he has reached that mark since his MVP season of 2011. He joins former teammate Max Scherzer as the only active pitchers in the Majors with three 250-strikeout seasons.
Teheran produced a 2.95 ERA in 68 career starts at Turner Field. The only pitchers to produce a better ERA while making at least 60 starts at The Ted were Greg Maddux (2.68) and John Smoltz (2.94).
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers: With Detroit's loss, Cleveland's win at Kansas City and Toronto's win over Boston, the Tigers and Indians do not have to make up last Thursday's rainout at Comerica Park. Thus, the Tigers season is over. Detroit will open the 2017 season April 3 against the White Sox at Guaranteed Rate Field. The Tigers' home opener is April 7 against the Red Sox.
Braves: Atlanta will open the 2017 season April 3 against the Mets at Citi Field. They will open SunTrust Park with an April 14 game against the Padres.