New York — They were booing Giancarlo Stanton at Yankee Stadium Tuesday night after he struck out in his first two at-bats.
In the bottom of the sixth, they stood on their feet and begged him for a curtain call.
After the Tigers missed turning an inning-ending double-play by inches, Stanton locked onto a spinning slider out over the plate from reliever Jose Cisnero and destroyed it. The ball left his bat with an exit velocity of 116.8 mph and flew 451 feet to the back of the left-field bleachers.
“He was sitting slider, got it and hit it a long way,” Tigers catcher Jake Rogers said.
The blast, the 400th of Stanton’s career, broke a 1-1 tie and sent the Yankees on to a 5-1 win in the first of three in the Bronx and snapping the Tigers’ four-game winning streak.
Only Mark McGwire, Babe Ruth and Alex Rodriguez got to 400 homers quicker than Stanton, who did it in 1,520 games.
“We need to keep the ball in the park, we talked about that before the game,” manager AJ Hinch said. “That’s the way that team scores and they’ve done a lot of that recently. And we’ve been on the bad end of it.”
The Yankees hit nine homers off Tigers’ pitching in the four-game series in Detroit. DJ LeMahieu opened the game Tuesday with a Yankee Stadium special − a 369-foot shot to right field off Alex Faedo. And then Stanton hit the moon shot in the sixth.
“Strike sliders go a long way,” Hinch said.
Stanton almost didn’t get the chance. After Aaron Judge led off with a walk (one of three he was issued), both Jason Dominguez and Gleyber Torres hit ground balls to third baseman Andre Lipcius. Neither ball was hit particularly hard and both runners beat the throw to first from second baseman Zach McKinstry by a step.
The Yankees broke it open in the bottom of the eighth with a two-run double by Torres off rookie Brendan White, the sixth Tigers’ pitcher in one of the rare bullpen game losses this season.
“It’s a great strategy,” Hinch said. “We’ve been pretty good at it. There’s no real issue with it. You get guys out of there before they get exposed over and over again. But you need to score, too. It’s not just a one-sided game.”
About that offense:
For the second time in six days, the Tigers didn’t get the Cy Young version of Yankees ace Gerrit Cole. For the second time in six days, Cole, one of the premier fastball pitchers in the game, opted to attack the worst fastball-hitting team in baseball with secondary pitches.
And for the second time in six days, Cole beat the Tigers.
“He still had good stuff and he kept us off-balance,” Rogers said. “He didn’t throw as many heaters today, lots of sliders, cutters, more off-speed. But he kept the runs low. He did his job.”
Cole shut them out for five innings Tuesday throwing an artful, if not confusing, mix of sliders, changeups, cutters and knuckle curves.
Shortstop Javier Báez came in hitting .182 against four-seam fastballs with a 34.5% whiff rate. Báez ripped a pair of singles against him, one off a curveball and one off a slider. Third time up in the sixth inning, Cole went to the whip, finally, and punched out Báez with a 99-mph fastball.
It was his last pitch of the night and his best fastball. Go figure.
(Post-script: Báez ended up with three singles, the last on a upper-90s heater by Clay Holmes.)
And still, the Tigers managed just four singles off Cole in the first five innings and trailed 1-0.
“Our at-bats were solid, but (Cole) won all the two-out at-bats, or most of them,” Hinch said. “We had guys on base but didn’t get the real big hit. When you get a guy like that on the ropes a little bit, if you can just get a big hit, maybe things change.”
Two of the singles against Cole came back-to-back in the first inning by Spencer Torkelson and Kerry Carpenter. But with two outs, Cole pulled out the heater for Miguel Cabrera. He got ahead in the count with 96 and 97 mph fastballs and then got him to rollover on a curveball.
They got two singles off him in the fifth inning, too, but a rare umpire’s interference call cost them a chance at a run. Báez led off with a single and stole second base. Home plate umpire Sean Barber waved him back to first, ruling catcher Ben Rortvedt’s arm brushed him on the throw.
“(Rortvedt) hit Sean on the way back,” Hinch said. “It was a long exchange. I could see it easy from my angle.”
Akil Baddoo followed with a single to right that might’ve scored Báez if he was on second. Instead, Báez ended up stranded at second.
Finally the Tigers broke through. Carpenter led off the sixth inning with a broken-bat triple (off a cutter) into the right-field corner. Cabrera followed, rapping a 97-mph fastball to right for an RBI single, tying the game 1-1.
“Miggy’s incredible,” Rogers said. “He’s hitting balls hard. He’s doing it like he’s always done it. Pretty impressive.”
Through three innings, Cole’s average fastball was down a 1 mph and the spin rate was 93 rpms below his norm. By the sixth inning, he was pumping the upper-90s heat again. But in 22 swings at Cole’s heater, the Tigers swung and missed just once.
At the end of the day, it was another quality start win for Cole, who improves to 9-1 with 2.01 ERA in his career against the Tigers.
“He had to battle,” said Hinch, who managed Cole for two seasons in Houston and watched him post a 35-10 record. “Our at-bats were pretty good. Facing somebody back-to-back, maybe he changed his strategy a little bit. Maybe one pitch felt better than some others.
“But I’ve watched him from both sides, his fastball is fine. He hit 97 and 98 − when he needed it, he had it.”