Welcome home, Niko! Goodrum's 5-hit, 2-HR night ignites Tigers

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Detroit's Niko Goodrum rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run in the third inning of Friday's 8-2 win over the Braves.

Atlanta — There were a lot of very happy folks wearing Niko Goodrum jerseys outside the Tigers clubhouse Friday night.

And there's one very happy young man who had just peeled off the authentic Niko Goodrum jersey inside the clubhouse, too.

"It's really good," said Goodrum, who threw himself one heck of a homecoming party at SunTrust Park. "I haven't played in front of the majority of them since I was in high school. To be able to go out there and perform, I'm sure they had a good time."

Goodrum, who grew up in nearby Fayetteville, Ga., had more than 25 friends and family members on hand to watch him bang out a career-high five hits, including two long home runs, to lead the Tigers to a third straight win, an 8-2 romp over the Atlanta Braves.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 8, Braves 2

Which, by the way, was the team Goodrum grew up rooting for.

"That was one of those great nights," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Kind of how you'd write it — the kid comes back home and has a night like that. It's very special. 

"He'll never forget it, I guarantee it. Nor will his family, which is probably more important."

Goodrum, who had a rough month, hitting just .189 with 31 strikeouts, knocked in three runs and scored four times.

"I've been battling for a little bit," he said. "I just didn't stop working. Just trying to improve every day. Things finally went my way tonight." 

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Goodrum's first home run, in the third inning off Braves starter Mike Foltynewicz, would have made Hank Aaron proud. The ball traveled 419 feet, hitting off the Coors Light building beyond the lower deck grandstands in right-center field.

His second homer, and sixth of the year, went in the same spot (though not quite as far) in the eighth inning.

"Offensively and defensively, Niko was superhuman here in his hometown," Gardenhire said. "Good for him."

In between those two bombs, Goodrum singled home JaCoby Jones, who had tripled, in the fifth inning, and then scored ahead of Nick Castellanos, who launched a breaking ball from Foltynewicz 415 feet into the seats in left field.

Goodrum also doubled and scored on an RBI single by Brandon Dixon in the seventh.

"We had a lot of good performances tonight," Gardenhire said. "It was good win."

Catcher Grayson Greiner started the party with a solo home run in the second inning.

Spencer Turnbull, just back off bereavement leave after attending the funeral of his grandfather in Birmingham, Ala., was happy for all the run support. But he wouldn’t need most of it on this night.

The Tigers’ right-hander was a picture of efficiency, using just 73 pitches to get through six innings. He allowed three singles and just one run to that point — and he contributed more to that run than the Braves hitters.

Ronald Acuna Jr. singled and easily stole second base in the third. The Braves seemed to have something figured out about Turnbull’s move to first base. In the first inning, Freddie Freeman stole second base standing up — that’s how big his jump was.

Acuna slid into second and advanced to third when Greiner’s throw went into center field. He scored on a groundout by Dansby Swanson.

Turnbull solved the base stealing problem, though. He didn’t allow another baserunner for the next three innings, dispatching 11 straight Braves hitters, while the Tigers built a 7-1 lead.

"I never feel like there's a cushion," Gardenhire said. "That team over there is a really good baseball team with a lot of good hitters."

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Drama ensued.

After the Tigers had a long, seven-batter at-bat in the top of the seventh, Turnbull wasn’t quite as sharp. He gave up singles to Josh Donaldson and Nick Markakis. Gardenhire came for him after he walked Austin Riley to load the bases.

Enter another Georgian, Buck Farmer, who turned in his second straight clutch performance.

The first batter he faced, Brian McCann, hit a fly ball to shallow right field. Donaldson aggressively scored on the play. Castellanos’ throw from right seemed to be tailing up the line and it was cut off.

Ozzie Albies then hit a liner back at Farmer. He knocked the ball down, but slipped as he tried to retrieve it — infield hit, bases reloaded with one out.

"If I don't touch it, it's a double play," Farmer shrugged. "But, just slap it down and go ahead and try to pitch out of a bases-loaded jam again."

Which he did.

Tigers trainer Matt Rankin and Gardenhire came out to check on Farmer, who seemed to wrench his back on the play. Farmer, though, stayed in and induced an inning-ending double play from pinch-hitter Charlie Culberson.

"That was huge," Gardenhire said. "That was a big pitch right there."

It turned out to be the Braves last gasp.


Twitter: @cmccosky