The Yankees knew that they would face a serious in this four-game homestand against the American League Central-leading Detroit Tigers, who would send the last three AL Cy Young Award winners and a resurgent Rick Porcello against them in this series. Yet despite a fine performance from Max Scherzer tonight, Brandon McCarthy and the Yankees' motley crew of relievers outpitched the Tigers' first ace and secured a victory in the series opener.
McCarthy was tested quickly in this game by the dangerous Tigers lineup, which loaded the bases with one man out against him in the top of the second inning. The Yankees had just stranded some runners in the bottom of the first, and it felt like McCarthy might let the game get away from him as labored threw 30 pitches in that frame. Showing some moxie though, McCarthy fanned Alex Avila and Eugenio Suarez consecutively to escape with no Tigers crossing home plate.
Buoyed by McCarthy's perseverance and a smoother third inning, the offense rewarded him with his only run support of the game in the bottom of the third. Ichiro Suzuki, Brett Gardner, and Derek Jeter hit back-to-back-to-back singles to load the bases with nobody out for the heart of the lineup. Jacoby Ellsbury sent a rocket to deep center field, chasing Ezequiel Carrera way back from where he began the play. It looked like it would go over his head for a bases-clearing triple, and then...
Decent catch. http://t.co/iw4wFNkWOG
— SB Nation GIF (@SBNationGIF) August 5, 2014
Well then. Ellsbury was robbed on one of the best catches baseball will witness all season long. Baseball gonna baseball. It was a sacrifice fly to score the game's first run, but it felt like the Tigers were going to only surrender the one run when Carlos Beltran lined out to second. It would have been quite deflating to get just one run out of that situation, but Brian McCann saved the rally by smashing an RBI single through the right side to give the Yankees a 2-0 lead.
That was the last run they would score all night, and they would need it. A chance for another run in the fourth went by the wayside on an embarrassing TOOTBLAN, as Gardner was caught in a rundown between first and second assuming Martin Prado would try to score on his single to right even though Torii Hunter quickly retrieved the ball. McCann also later grounded into a double play with the bases loaded and one out in the fifth. Alas. Scherzer's defense really helped him out tonight.
The Tigers plated their lone run of the evening in the fifth after Gardner's faux pas (faux paw?) when Prado threw a groundball a bit too high to Chase Headley at first base, allowing Suarez to reach. Suarez stole second and Ian Kinsler singled him home to make it a one-run game. Headley was playing first for just the third time in his career, as Mark Teixeira was a late scratch due to lightheadedness, and his inexperience showed in his uneasiness finding the base after jumping to retrieve the throw. The error was deservedly on Prado though, as he had more time to prepare for his throw than he thought, and his rushed throw caused problems. He did make a couple nice plays earlier in the game though, so it all balances out in a way.
McCarthy recorded a pair of strikeouts with the leadoff man on in the sixth inning, but after Don Kelly singled on his 116th pitch, Joe Girardi elected to go to the bullpen for the last out, and Matt Thornton came through by getting Avila to ground out to first. Although McCarthy only went 5 2/3 innings, he survived to turn in a fine performance on the evening, yielding just five hits, two walks, and an unearned run while also notching eight strikeouts. His ERA in six starts as a Yankee dipped to 2.08. Again, they acquired him for Vidal Nuno and also received $2 million for their troubles. Brian Cashman is a ninja.
Locking down the final three innings against the dangerous Detroit lineup while Dellin Betances received a much-needed day off was another challenge for the pitching staff. Fortunately for the Yankees, they were up to the task. Adam Warren caused some shortness of breath after getting the first two outs in the seventh when he allowed a double to Carrera, bringing two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera up as the go-ahead run with the tying run in scoring position, but Warren induced a comebacker to get out of the inning. Shawn Kelley pitched a superior eighth inning, as after Victor Martinez bailed him out of a 3-0 count by hitting a lazy grounder to first, he got Torii Hunter to fly out and struck out J.D. Martinez for a perfect frame.
A weary David Robertson entered the game in the ninth seeking a save on his third straight day of work without rest. The fine work of the previous pitchers though ensured that he would face the bottom of the lineup though, and they were no match for D-Rob. Kelly flew out, Avila struck out again, and pinch-hitter Rajai Davis followed with another strikeout on a ball in the dirt. It was Robertson's 30th save of the season, a commendable feat and a mark of his consistency.
The Yankees will try for a second straight win against a former Cy Young Award winner tomorrow night as David Price takes the mound for his first start in a Tigers uniform. Hiroki Kuroda will get the ball for the Yankees.