ATLANTA — The Detroit Tigers needed a lot of things to go right on the final day of the regular season.
So it’s wait ’til next year for the Tigers, who were eliminated from the wild card Sunday with a 1-0 loss to the Atlanta Braves in the final game at Turner Field.
Julio Teheran matched a career high with 12 strikeouts, and Freddie Freeman drove in the lone run with a first-inning sacrifice fly off Justin Verlander. Detroit missed the playoffs for the second year in a row after four straight postseason appearances that included a trip to the World Series in 2012.
“When you start spring training, your goal is to get to the postseason,” said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, whose team won 12 more games than a year ago. “We didn’t, so we’re very disappointed.”
Detroit needed to win, hope that either Baltimore or Toronto lost, and then win a makeup game against Cleveland on Monday in order to force a tiebreaker for an AL wild card.
“I would not have enjoyed the travel,” Ausmus said, “but I would have relished traveling.”
Detroit lost its second straight against the last-place Braves. With a runner aboard in the ninth, Justin Upton was called out on strikes to end the game.
It didn’t matter, anyway, as both the Orioles and the Blue Jays won.
“We were dead in the water in a lot of peoples’ minds,” Ausmus said. “The guys played hard and continued to play hard all the way through the last game.”
Atlanta was never a playoff contender but is feeling a lot better about its prospects heading to SunTrust Park. After an 18-46 start that included the firing of manager Fredi Gonzalez, the Braves went 50-47 the rest of the way under interim manager Brian Snitker, who might have done enough to keep the job in 2017.
“We feel really good walking out of here,” Snitker said. “I don’t know how we could end the season any better to build momentum for next year.”
Clearly inspired by the Turner Field finale, Teheran (7-10) went seven innings, giving up three hits and a walk before a sellout crowd of 51,220 that included former President Jimmy Carter and Hall of Famers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz, who threw out ceremonial first pitches in unison.
When Teheran took the mound, he did a pretty good impression of those three in their prime.
“The emotions I was feeling on the mound were unbelievable,” Teheran said. “Everybody was excited. I’m glad that I had my stuff. It couldn’t be any better than that.”
Verlander (16-9) allowed six hits in seven innings, walked one intentionally and struck out eight. Most days, it would have been good enough to win. But one run was all the Braves needed.
Ender Inciarte led off the Atlanta first with a single to left center, and raced around to third when Adonis Garcia followed with another hit. Freeman brought home the run by flying out to center.
“I was just a little out of sync there to start the game,” Verlander said. “I settled down from there but too little, too late at that point. Who would have known that?”
Atlanta had a chance to pad its lead in the sixth. Garcia started things with a single, stole second and made it to third on an errant throw by catcher James McCann.
Verlander buckled down, getting Freeman on an infield pop and striking out Matt Kemp. After Nick Markakis was intentionally walked, Verlander fanned Tyler Flowers to end the inning.
The Tigers only real threat off Teheran came in the second, when J.D. Martinez singled and Nick Castellanos walked with one out. McCann struck out and Jose Iglesias popped out to the shortstop.
Jim Johnson, who agreed to a two-year contract extension before the game, worked around a hit in the ninth for his 20th save in 23 chances.
Then it was on to a postgame ceremony that included the removal of home plate, which was taken by Hank Aaron and team chairman Terry McGuirk on a police-escorted ride to SunTrust Park.
“That’s the way we all wanted to finish and close this book,” Teheran said. “I’m proud of myself and the job that I did.”
The third sellout of the season at Turner Field pushed the season attendance to 2,020,914, ensuring the Braves drew at least 2 million fans in each of their 20 seasons at the ballpark.
Still, it was their second-lowest season attendance at the Ted (the team drew 2,001,392 a year ago) and a far cry from the first season in 1997, when Atlanta attracted 3,464,488 for an NL East-winning team.
Detroit OF Ty Collins tripped on a sprinkler head during batting practice Saturday, leaving him with a sprained ankle. He didn’t play in the season finale.
The Tigers open the 2017 season at the Chicago White Sox on April 3.
The Braves also begin next season April 3, facing the Mets in New York. The first game at SunTrust Park is set for April 14 against the San Diego Padres.