MIAMI -- The American League Central champion Tigers brought their power-packed lineup to Marlins Park on Friday night. But the decisive swing was delivered by Miami slugger Giancarlo Stanton.
Stanton blistered a three-run double in the third inning that was all the support the Marlins needed to edge the Tigers, 3-2, in the series opener.
Tom Koehler, pitching with a stomach virus, ended his season on a high, giving up two runs in 5 1/3 innings, and winning his final two starts.
The right-hander finishes at 5-10 with a 4.41 ERA, and he will enter Spring Training vying for either a rotation or bullpen spot.
Koehler was backed by scoreless relief from Ryan Webb, Chad Qualls and Steve Cishek, who notched his 29th straight save and 34th overall.
In a game that sported Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder and the rest of the Tigers' explosive lineup, the game came down to one Stanton swing.
"We were joking before that there are some guys who need to be in their own league," Koehler said. "We were talking about Miguel and stuff like that. I think Stanton is right there with them. I think in a few years, he's going to show, not only that tremendous power, but we'll see what he is capable of doing, just as a hitter."
Miami has won back-to-back games for the first time since taking three straight from Sept. 1-3. Overall, the Marlins are now 60-100 with two games remaining.
These two teams share a lot of familiar faces.
Miami manager Mike Redmond was a rookie in 1998, when Detroit's Jim Leyland was Florida's manager.
Because the Tigers have already clinched their division, Leyland freely substituted. Fielder was lifted after one plate appearance, a walk, and Cabrera went 2-for-3 before exiting for a pinch-runner in the sixth inning.
"They're obviously in a different spot than we are at this point," Redmond said. "Skip [Leyland] is giving them a little break to let them rest up and make sure they're ready for the playoffs. We're obviously just trying to win a ballgame."
The game marked the return of Cabrera to Miami, the organization he broke in with, and was a standout, from 2003-07.
In his first at-bat, Cabrera received a big ovation.
"It was good. I'm back here in Miami and I see a lot of people from my country," the Venezuela sensation said. "It seemed like half the stadium is from Venezuela. It was great to see that. It was great to be back here in Miami, man."
On the verge of wrapping up his third straight batting title, Cabrera lined out to Stanton in right field in the first inning.
In the fourth inning, Cabrera singled to center. The reigning American League MVP made his third and final at-bat in the sixth inning, and he singled again on a deep fly ball to right field. Because of his groin strain, he isn't running well, and he stopped at a single on a ball that should have been a double.
Matt Tuiasosopo pinch-ran for Cabrera, who trotted off the field with a .347 batting average.
Cabrera also has history with Redmond as both were teammates on the 2003 World Series title team.
"It's always different any time you compete against guys you've played with," Redmond said. "It's a totally different experience when you've managed against guys you've played with. To know the type of player Miggy is, and how good he is. I know how much he means to that ballclub. He's an amazing hitter, and we had a good couple of laughs, and a good conversation."
Cabrera's long single set up a run, as Tuiasosopo scored from first on Jhonny Peralta's RBI double, trimming Miami's lead to 3-2.
Former Marlins pitching prospect Jose Alvarez made the start, and he lasted 2 2/3 innings. And Evan Reed, who was in the Marlins organization until earlier this season, threw a scoreless inning.
The Marlins were able to break through with three runs in the third.
Koyie Hill singled to open the inning, and he moved to second on Koehler's sacrifice bunt. With two outs, Alvarez issued back-to-back walks to Placido Polanco and Christian Yelich. Rick Porcello relieved Alvarez, and surrendered a three-run double to Stanton, who ripped a liner to the corner in left.
Stanton boosted his team-leading RBI total to 61.
"You know, Stanton's got a chance to hit a homer on every pitch," Yelich said. "It's always good to have guys on base when he's up there, and let the big fella bring everybody in."
The Tigers got on the board in the fifth inning on Austin Jackson's two-out, RBI single to center.
Polanco made one of the top defensive plays of the season for the Marlins, leaping into the seats to grab Don Kelly's pop foul in the eighth inning.
"When I got to the rail, I saw I had a chance," Polanco said. "You've got to try. You can't give those guys an extra chance. They're a great team. They won their division because they're a very good team. You don't give very good teams a lot of breaks."