Tigers spoil Gerrit Cole’s perfect game in seventh inning, lose 13-0 against Yankees

Detroit News

New York — The way Gerrit Cole was throwing the baseball Friday night, it was clear right out of the chute the Tigers’ margin for error would be miniscule. Like one run would be a mountain to climb.

So when Jose Trevino and Aaron Judge blasted solo homers off Tigers’ rookie starter Elvin Rodriguez in the third, it felt like the lights were dimming.

When center fielder Willi Castro misplayed a two-out fly ball into a two-run triple by Trevino in a three-run fourth, it felt like the lights went out. And then a 430-foot, three-run moonshot homer by Anthony Rizzo and a two-run shot by Matt Carpenter in the fifth made sure they stayed out.

Final score: Yankees 13, Tigers 0 in the first of three this weekend at Yankee Stadium.

The only drama left was whether Cole would throw a perfect game or at least a no-hitter. He was that dominant. After second baseman DJ LeMahieu made a superb back-handed play up the middle in the seventh to take a hit away from Harold Castro, he’d set down 20 straight Tigers’ hitters.

But history would not be made on this night. Jonathan Schoop lined a sharp single to center with two outs in the seventh to break it up and Cole was given a standing ovation by a raucous crowd of 42,026 in the Bronx.

BOX SCORE: Yankees 13, Tigers 0

“We were all aware of it, I mean, nobody wants to go down on the other side of something like that,” manager AJ Hinch said. “The mindset is pretty tough. Gerrit Cole is dominant and when a pitcher is out there having his way with a lineup, it’s pretty frustrating.

“Thankfully Jonathan got the base hit and we don’t have to go down in history.”

Cole finished seven innings allowing two hits and striking out nine, punching out the side in the third and, impressively, in the sixth after a lengthy wait while his teammates scored seven runs in the bottom of the fifth.

“(The pitch to Schoop) was probably a B,” Cole told Yes Network afterward. “It cut to the corner with not quiet as much break as we would have wanted it to. Seeing his swing, I had a pretty good feeling if it was anywhere close he’d put a good swing on it.

“Maybe if it wasn’t a strike we’d get contact in our favor but he was on it.”

The Tigers put 14 balls in play against him with an average exit velocity of 80 mph. And that’s with Schoop’s hit which left his bat at 108 mph.

“He was in complete control of virtually every at-bat,” Hinch said. “I’ve seen a lot of his games and when he’s calm and under control, with no emotion, he’s not sweating the near-misses, he’s a different pitcher.

“He’s one of the best in the league when he’s like that and we saw it first-hand.”

Cole has added a cutter to his tool kit this year and he was using it and his slider to protect his four-seam fastball, which he was painting edges with at 98 mph. The Tigers hitters were seeing three different pitches coming in on essentially the same plane down in the strike zone. The cutter (92 mph) would break one way, the slider (88) would break the other and the four-seam fastball would ride through the zone.

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“I’ve never faced him with that pitch before,” said Harold Castro, who starting in left field and then pitched and got the last three outs of the game for the Tigers. “He’s got new stuff and he was mixing his pitches good. He got us today.”

The Tigers have gotten a good run using Willi Castro in the outfield. The move was born out of necessity with injuries to outfielders Riley Greene, Akil Baddo, Victor Reyes, Austin Meadows and Robbie Grossman.

And until Friday night, it hadn’t really hurt them defensively. What Castro lacks in outfield technique and experience he’s made up for with pure athleticism. He was able to run down most of his late reads and misreads.

Not this time.

Rodriguez got the first two outs in the fourth. Left-handed hitting Carpenter stepped in and noticed there were no fielders on the left side of the infield and four spaced around the outfield. He showed bunt on the first pitch and saw no adjustment from the Tigers.

“I’ll take the bunt any time over his last swing,” Hinch said, referencing Carpenter’s long home run to right.

So Carpenter dropped a bunt down the third base line, the ball hitting the bag at third, and the spark was lit. After Isiah Kiner-Falefa doubled Carpenter to third, Trevino hit a ball in the air to center. The exit velocity off the bat was 91 mph, so it was fairly well-struck.

But Castro charged it like it was sinking. It was not. It flew over his head and rolled to the wall.

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“He misread it, it was a mistake,” Hinch said. “I’ve seen a lot of everyday center fielders make that mistake on a swing that looks like it’s off the end of the bat but it’s off the barrel.”

Coming off playing five games in four days against the Twins and with two more here before an off day Monday, Hinch needed Rodriguez to at least eat five innings. It didn’t happen. Final line for Rodriguez: 4.1 innings, 11 hits, 10 runs.

“I feel for him,” Hinch said. “That’s why I told him on the mound, ‘You’re going to be back out here again, don’t let this shake you.’ It got ugly fast and they were hitting the ball out of the park and they were piecing together at-bats. Any pitch he didn’t execute the second and third time through they had their way with.

“I hated that it had to end that way for him but sometimes it’s necessary given how we’ve used our pen.”

Cole’s flirtation with perfection comes one night after another Yankee right-hander, Jamison Taillon took a perfect game into the eighth against the Angels. According to ESPN Stats and information, it’s the first time since 1961 that a team had perfect-game bids of six innings or longer in consecutive games.

“It was pretty exciting,” Cole said. “The fans were in it. I heard them chanting my name which was pretty magical. It just means so much to us when they are behind us like that.”

The last three outs by the Tigers were recorded by Castro. He came in having thrown 2.2 scoreless innings in his career. He gave up a run (on a misplay in left by Kody Clemens that was scored a double) and a single to Judge who had four hits.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @cmccosky

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