Tigers’ Candelario hits walkoff winner

The Tigers’ Jeimer Candelario, right, celebrates hitting a two-run walk-off home run with third base coach Dave Clark during the ninth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in Detroit on Friday. (AP photo)

By DAVE HOGG

Associated Press

DETROIT — Jeimer Candelario left the St. Louis Cardinals with a sinking feeling.

Candelario connected on a 102 mph sinker from Cardinals reliever Jordan Hicks, hitting a two-run homer in the ninth inning Friday night that gave the Detroit Tigers a 5-3 victory.

“There are guys who throw a soft 100 mph fastball — you can see it coming and you can time it,” Tigers catcher James McCann said. “Hicks is throwing a hard 103. It is right on top of you, and it moves. It’s tough to make contact, and he barreled it up.”

Hicks, who was facing his sixth batter, gave Candelario most of the credit.

“I was sharp and I was trying to pound the strike zone,” he said. “He just got good wood on it and the ball left the yard. I can’t mourn a mistake. I just have to get better.”

Candelario’s second career game-ending homer was made more special by the presence of his family.

“This is a blast,” he said in a postgame television interview. “To do this, not just in front of the fans, but in front of my family.”

Marcell Ozuna homered twice for St. Louis, which has lost four of six. The Cardinals hold a slim lead for the second NL wild-card spot.

“I’m trying to be more aggressive,” Ozuna said. “When my shoulder was hurting, I couldn’t stay inside, but now I feel better and I can hit that pitch.”

The Tigers won their third in a row.

“That’s a lot of fun,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Those guys are in a pennant race and we’re not, but we stepped up and got a victory. Those are the moments you enjoy.”

Hicks (3-4) retired the first five batters he faced, but rookie Victor Reyes slapped a 102 mph fastball to left with one out in the ninth, and Candelario hit his 18th homer on the next pitch.

“Candy is still learning at this level, but he’s a strong young man,” Gardenhire said.