New York — It’s never nothing with these Tigers.
On a day when the pitching held up fairly well, on a day when the big hitters in the lineup delivered some clutch hits, on a day when they showed some real fight against one of the best teams in baseball, the defense buckled.
“They just outplayed us at the end of the game,” manager AJ Hinch said after the Yankees completed the three-game sweep of the Tigers 5-4 on a 10th-inning sacrifice fly by Josh Donaldson. “They out-executed us. They’re a winning team. And at the end of the game it gets even more magnified when you are running out of outs and you’re missing some opportunities.”
The Tigers didn’t score in the top of the 10th and that felt fatal. With the free runner at second base, Derek Hill couldn’t execute three times trying to drop a bunt — even though first baseman Anthony Rizzo was barreling in on him.
“I didn’t put the bunt (sign) down from the beginning,” Hinch said. “He’s comfortable doing it and he knows he’s got to get the runner to third base — get him over or drive him in. But with Rizzo over there it was going to be very difficult.”
Yankees reliever Michael King ended up striking out the side. Opportunity lost.
Gregory Soto, who pitched a clean ninth, Gave up a single to Rizzo in the 10th, sending Aaron Judge to third. Donaldson launched a fly ball that Willi Castro ran down at the track, and Judge jogged home.
“You get into extra innings and don’t score, it puts you in a real tough spot,” Hinch said.
But for a couple of ugly defensive innings, the Tigers might not have had to see a 10th inning.
Behind clutch hits by Miguel Cabrera and Javier Báez, the Tigers took a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the eighth inning. Báez had a couple of hits and knocked in two runs. He doubled and scored in a two-run fourth, helping the Tigers snap a 21-inning scoreless streak.
Cabrera had three hits and a walk. He ripped a two-out single in the eighth inning that plated Willi Castro, tying the game 3-3. Báez followed with one of his better at-bats in a while.
He got into a two-strike hole against reliever Miguel Castro, a slider specialist, which has been Báez’s Kryptonite. This time Báez battled and lined a ball to right field that caromed off Rizzo’s glove, scoring pinch-runner Kody Clemens.
Six outs away from a win.
“We’re never out of it,” Spencer Torkelson said. “But at the end of the day, we lost and we’re bummed about that.”
The Yankees’ half of the eighth got off to a very ominous start. Reliever Michael Fulmer, who had struck out Judge to end the seventh, hit Rizzo with a 1-2 pitch. Rizzo, attempting to steal second, ended up at third when catcher Eric Haase’s throw went off second baseman Jonathan Schoop’s glove.
Rizzo scored on a slow roller to third. Harold Castro’s throw to the plate sailed over Haase.
Painful but it could’ve been worse. Fulmer buckled down. With a runner at second, he got Aaron Hicks to pop out. Hinch decided to walk Isiah Kiner-Falefa and pitch to Kyle Higashioka.
Hinch doesn’t issue free passes randomly.
“You have your choice of who you want to pitch to there,” he said. “That run doesn’t matter at all at that point in the game. Kiner-Falefa is a good contact guy, so we went after Higgy and it worked out for us.”
Higashioka fouled out to Torkelson outside of first.
Báez made a curious play in the bottom of the seventh that led to a run. The game was tied 2-2 and Gleyber Torres was on first with one out against Alex Lange, who was working his second inning in relief.
With Torres running on the pitch, Kiner-Falefa hit a ground ball to Baez just a few steps off the bag at second. Baez made a couple quick steps toward the bag but Torres was already there.
By then there was no chance to get Kiner-Falefa at first.
“I honestly liked that play,” Torkelson said. “Me as a base runner, I’m thinking I could get to third on a throw to first. If it’s a bad throw, I’m scoring. Him trying to deke him and then get him at second — no problem there.
“It would have been a bang-bang play on Kiner-Falefa at first.”
Lange subsequently walked pinch-hitter Matt Carpenter to load the bases with one out. He struck out Joey Gallo, but walked DJ LeMahieu scoring Torres to put the Yankees up 3-2.
“We’re just trying to win the game,” Hinch said. “We had out best pitchers in the game, and against the top of their order, I’ll take Alex Lange every time.”
Detroit got a strong start from Rony Garcia on Sunday. In fact, he and the rest of the Tigers thought they’d gotten through five innings with a 2-0 lead. Garcia struck out Jose Trevino and Haase appeared to throw out Kiner-Falefa trying to steal second.
But after a review, the call was overturned at second. The next hitter, Joey Gallo, pounded a 3-1 sinker into the seats in right field — tie ball game.
“Going into the game, if you told me we’d get two runs and five innings from Rony, I’d have taken it.”
The Tigers lost third baseman Jeimer Candelario in the second inning. He injured his left shoulder diving after a line drive hit by Donaldson.
“He said he felt it shift when he dove and hit the ground,” Hinch said. “He’s going to get a battery of tests. I don’t know if he’ll need an IL stint or not. But I know I don’t want to play short. We will have to make a determination when we get to Pittsburgh.”
The Tigers are off Monday before playing the Pirates Tuesday and Wednesday.
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