Tork tees off with pair of homers in rout of Yanks

Detroit Tigers

NEW YORK — Spencer Torkelson‘s power stroke has arrived. And by the look of it, it’s here to stay.

Torkelson, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft and the Tigers’ No. 1 prospect per MLB Pipeline in ‘22, notched the fifth multihomer game of his young career in Thursday night’s 10-3 win at Yankee Stadium.

Torkelson, who was best known for his 70-grade power tool, blasted a pair of two-run homers in his first three plate appearances in the series finale. The sophomore standout’s power surge helped the Tigers halt the Yanks’ season-high-tying five-game win streak and snap their own eight-game losing skid in the Bronx (dating back to April 2021).

Just two batters into the first inning, Torkelson smacked a Statcast-projected 354-foot dinger to the short porch in right field. In a full count against New York starter Carlos Rodón, Torkelson lifted a 95.1 mph fastball at the bottom of the zone and made sure it landed beyond the long reach of Aaron Judge’s patrol zone.

“That’s kind of his bread and butter,” Torkelson said. “So when you can really focus on a guy’s best pitch, and then trust your eyes on his secondary stuff — at least for me, it makes the approach a lot simpler.”

As Detroit unloaded on Rodón to the tune of seven runs in 3 2/3 innings — the southpaw’s worst mark so far in his first season in pinstripes — Yankees manager Aaron Boone turned to his bullpen when Torkelson came up to bat in the fourth, bringing in right-hander Randy Vásquez.

Same result. Torkelson sent a 1-0 sinker a Statcast-projected 382 feet to left field at an exit velocity of 109.4 mph to cap the Tigers’ four-run fourth, tying their combined total from the first two games of the series.

“Looks like he’s finding his stride. Looks like he’s starting to get confident and learn who he is and what he can do,” said leadoff batter Matt Vierling, who knocked a season-high-tying four hits and scored a career-high four runs, two on Torkelson’s homers.

“He’s a special talent. A special player. He’s awesome to be around. Even going about his business every day, it’s pretty cool to watch. And seeing results like that, I know it’s huge for him. It’s huge for us.”

Torkelson now has a team-leading 27 home runs, which is tied with 1968 World Series champion Willie Horton for the third most by a Tigers player in his age-23 season. It’s within reason that Torkelson could finish in the top spot, as only Rudy York (35 homers in ’37) and Matt Nokes (32 in ’87) racked up more.

It’s also more than triple the eight homers that Torkelson hit in his rookie campaign in 2022, during which he was sent down to Triple-A Toledo at the All-Star break to work on his approach at the plate.

“It’s tough to hit, so you want to ride the hot streak as long as possible and you want to eliminate the cold streak,” Torkelson said. “But it’s all about just getting back to my plan, my approach, my process.”

All five of Torkelson’s multihomer games have come this season, four of them in the second half alone. It’s a sign, perhaps, that the face of the franchise is starting to put it all together.

“His approach is unwavering,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “And I like the way he is taking the success, running with it. He’s also not making too much out of that, or some of the tough at-bats. He has the same process. He’s stayed even-keeled. … He’s developing nicely.”

Torkelson almost went all the way around the park with his power display, as his at-bat between those homers ended with a 401-foot flyout that sent Yankees center fielder Jasson Domínguez to the warning track. It would have been a home run in 19 MLB ballparks, per Statcast, though Comerica Park was also not one of them.

Two homers was plenty for the Tigers’ purposes.

“We’ve asked for patience; we’re starting to get rewarded with the power that we all knew he had,” Hinch said. “He’s getting more and more comfortable in the type of at-bats that he can put together.

“He’s very dangerous, and he’s just starting.”

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