Right-hander Jose Urena did as much as he could to keep the Detroit Tigers competitive in the three-game series finale, pitching to weak contact, flashing his never-quit mentality to complete seven strong innings.
The offense, however, forgot to show up.
The Tigers (8-21) lost their fifth contest in a row, 2-0, to the New York Yankees on Sunday at Yankee Stadium. Unable to avoid the sweep, they went 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position and logged two hits, one walk and 12 strikeouts.
To go with the worst record in baseball, Detroit has a 2-15 mark in the past 17 games. The offense is hitting .173 (89-for-513) with 30 runs, 30 walks and 183 strikeouts during that span. Across the entire season, the Tigers have a .199 batting average.
Facing Yankees starter Corey Kluber, the Tigers had their biggest threat in the third inning, when Wilson Ramos walked and JaCoby Jones singled — sandwiched between those at-bats was an Akil Baddoo strikeout on a changeup. A wild pitch put two runners in scoring position, but Robbie Grossman and Jeimer Candelario struck out swinging to squander the opportunity.
After an off-day Monday, Detroit begins a three-game series with the Boston Red Sox to conclude a nine-game road trip. The Tigers’ starter is to be determined (likely Michael Fulmer or a bullpen-only game). For Boston, right-hander Nick Pivetta gets the ball.
An unfair advantage
Because the Tigers didn’t give Urena run support, his electric seven-inning performance went to waste. Even if Urena would have allowed just one run, it still would have been enough for the Yankees to complete the sweep.
That’s just not fair.
The 29-year-old, signed to a one-year contract this winter, completed his fourth seven-inning start in a row. During that span, he has allowed seven earned runs on 22 hits, seven walks and 19 strikeouts — but the Tigers only have one win in those four games. This season, Urena owns a 3.53 ERA through six starts.
Against the Yankees, Urena went up and in with a 96 mph sinker, but Kyle Higashioka mustered an RBI double down the left-field line. That put two runners in scoring position, and Brett Gardner pushed home the second run with a sacrifice fly.
But Urena bounced back to strike out DJ LeMahieu, for the second of 17 consecutive outs. In the sixth, he struck out Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge . In the seventh, he punched out the side by getting Gio Urshela , Aaron Hicks and Mike Ford.
Urena allowed two runs on three hits and one walk, with seven strikeouts, across his seven innings. He tossed strikes for 64 of his 100 pitches, picking up 11 swings-and-misses — with five sliders, four sinkers one four-seamer and one changeup.
As Kluber struck out the side in the second inning, he became unstoppable.
Despite his mini-jam in the third, he locked back in by retiring nine in a row and 17 of his final 18 batters. He generated his strikeouts early by using his changeup — with seven through three innings — before weak contact guided him.
Kluber pitched eight scoreless innings, allowing two hits and one walk, with 10 strikeouts. He threw 74 of his 103 pitches for strikes. After Jones’ single in the third, the only other hit against him was Candelario’s single in the sixth.
He threw 30 sinkers, 25 changeups, 25 cutters, 19 curveballs and four four-seam fastball. The changeup carried Kluber’s through his dominant performance, with 13 of 20 swings-and-misses.
Kluber pounded the strike zone relentlessly and mixed his pitches well. Even when the Tigers quit chasing on changeups below the strike zone, Kluber worked to get 11 ground-ball outs.
Through the three-game series with the Yankees, Miguel Cabrera went 0-for-11 with six strikeouts.
On Sunday, the 38-year-old grounded out to third base on the first pitch twice (in the first and sixth innings) and struck out swinging in the fourth inning on Kluber’s curveball in a 2-2 count. He finished 0-for-4 with one strikeout, and his batting average has dropped to .115 in 15 games.
Cabrera entered Thursday’s doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox searching for career hit No. 2,873, which would tie him with the legendary Babe Ruth for 45th on the all-time leaderboard. But Cabrera is 0-for-18 with 11 strikeouts since he picked up his most recent hit in Tuesday’s game.
Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold. Read more on the Detroit Tigers and sign up for our Tigers newsletter.