It’s becoming increasingly difficult to keep saying “it’s early” about the Yankees’ lineup because 2022 thus far only seems like an unpleasant extension of last season. In an all-too-familiar scenario, New York got a solid pitching performance, and couldn’t do anything with the bats, dropping a very winnable game to the Tigers this afternoon in Detroit. The end was mired in controversy around manager Aaron Boone’s decision to intentionally walk Miguel Cabrera in his last at-bat despite the future Hall of Famer sitting a hit away from 3,000, but for Yankees fans’ focus, the story should remain the sorry excuse for an offense.
Both teams were quiet early at the dish, but Detroit opened the scoring in the bottom of the third when Tigers shortstop Willi Castro led off the inning with a bloop single to center field. Victor Reyes bounced to third and reached on a fielder’s choice that erased Castro, but came around to score on a Robbie Grossman double to deep left field, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead. Joey Gallo, in a case of perhaps bringing his batting woes into the field, didn’t play the ball particularly well in left field; otherwise, Jordan Montgomery’s shutout bid may have stayed intact.
Yet through five innings the story of the game was the performance of Detroit starter Michael Pineda. Pineda, coming off an injury-plagued 2021, didn’t join the Tigers until the end of March and threw only 6.1 innings in spring training. Making his first start of the year, he held the Yankees scoreless needing only 60 pitches to get through five innings, allowing only three singles along the way.
In fact, the only threat Pineda faced from the Yankees came in the bottom of the fifth, when DJ LeMahieu extended his hitting streak to eight games with a ground ball single up the middle. After a pop-out from Gallo, Isiah Kiner-Falefa made plenty of old-school Yankee fans happy by perfectly executing a hit-and-run, singling through the right side with DJ on the move. Yet it was right back to business for Pineda, as he induced easy fly balls from Marwin Gonzalez and Jose Trevino to end the Yankees’ cautious optimism.
Thanks in large part to six solid innings from Montgomery, and then a good seventh from reliever Miguel Castro, the Yankees still only trailed 1-0 entering the eighth. Josh Donaldson, pinch-hitting for Gonzalez, led off the frame by doubling hard down the left-field line for the Yankees' first extra-base hit, and only the team’s second hit of the day struck at over 100 mph off the bat. Gleyber Torres followed with a pinch-hit of his own into the shortstop hole, giving the Yankees first and third with nobody out. After an Aaron Hicks pop out, Detroit reliever Alex Lange issued a walk to Aaron Judge, loading the bases and bringing Anthony Rizzo to the plate with one out ... and Tigers manager A.J. Hinch to the mound to bring lefty Gregory Soto in to face Rizzo.
After a Rizzo tapper back to the mound for a fielder’s choice force out at home, Giancarlo Stanton came to bat and ended all suspense quickly by grounding Soto’s first pitch to first base to end the inning. I won’t speak for anyone else, but the thought crossed my mind that perhaps Pineda pitching well earlier isn’t what made the Yankees look bad — it was the Yankees making the Yankees look bad. The numbers behind Big Mike’s actual pitches certainly seem to back that up:
Pineda's really out here torching the Yankees lineup with his low-velo, low-spin fastball huh pic.twitter.com/ppTKoft2Rj— Pinstripe Alley (@pinstripealley) April 21, 2022
Regardless of the offensive ineptitude, it appeared that the Yankees would still have a shot heading into the ninth. With the Tigers batting in the bottom of the eighth with the bases loaded and nobody out after shakiness from Castro, Lucas Luetge induced a 1-2-3 double play from Jeimer Candelario. Then in a move that made him very unpopular in Detroit, Boone chose to intentionally walk Cabrera, who was still looking for hit No. 3,000 after a hitless afternoon. After the free pass and a thunderous round of boos from the Tigers fans, a bloop double from Austin Meadows scored two to give Detroit a 3-0 lead. Given the way the Yankees have been swinging the bat, it may as well have been a touchdown lead instead of a field goal.
Despite the moral victory of a Gallo single (only his fifth hit of 2022), the Yankees went down quietly in the ninth, sealing the 3-0 loss. It’s hard to say that taking two out of three on the road is a disappointment, but this series really was. Detroit is not a good team and played like it, giving the Yankees every opportunity for a three-game sweep, and as has been all too common, the Bombers’ bats just couldn’t take advantage of the opportunity.
The Yankees will once again try to get back on track tomorrow back in the Bronx when they take on the Cleveland Guardians. Jameson Taillon will be on the hill for the home team and will make the first pitch at 7:05 pm EDT.