José Ureña can’t do anything about the Tigers’ offense, not in the American League anyway. All he can do is pitch. He’s looking better at that with each start. And as Detroit continues its search for a consistent, productive offense, Ureña is at least giving them a chance to stay in games.
Time and again Sunday, Ureña sent down the Yankees in relatively quick order, sending Detroit back into the batter’s box against former American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber. The Tigers never did solve their old AL Central nemesis, leaving Ureña on the short end of a 2-0 pitchers’ duel and a three-game series sweep at Yankee Stadium.
A day after the Tigers churned out four runs to make a game late, their offensive revival proved short-lived. Ureña, by contrast, looks like one of the better pitching comebacks in baseball this season.
Ureña’s pitches have been electric since Spring Training, both in velocity and movement. The key for Ureña’s success has been using that movement to put pitches where he wants for strikeouts and ground balls instead of wildly outside the strike zone for walks.
Sunday’s work was a demonstration in that balance, but it came after a brief bout of wildness in the second inning. Ureña got a ground ball from Gio Urshela to lead off the inning, but the ball straddled the third-base line before hitting the bag for a leadoff single. An Aaron Hicks walk put two runners on with nobody out.
Two batters later, Kyle Higashioka found that line again, this time in left field as his line drive bounced in fair territory and bolted for the left-field corner. The double scored Urshela and put Hicks in position to score on Brett Gardner’s drive to the right-field wall and Robbie Grossman’s leaping catch.
That was the last solid contact the Yankees made on a ball out of the infield. Ureña retired his final 17 batters starting with Gardner’s sac fly. He struck out five of his final six hitters, including the side in order in the seventh.
Kluber limited the Tigers to one scoring threat, a third-inning opportunity following a Wilson Ramos leadoff walk and JaCoby Jones single. A wild pitch put both runners in scoring position, but Kluber fanned Robbie Grossman and Jeimer Candelario to strand them. Candelario’s sixth-inning single accounted for Detroit’s only other baserunner off Kluber.