Yanks can’t prevent Tigers from late-inning comeback

The Yankees tried to carry the momentum of an uplifting weekend at Tampa Bay into Detroit, but the regenerated offense failed to follow them. They scored merely one run Monday night, a total seldom enough to prevail against the Tigers’ powerhouse.

And yet it almost was this time with CC Sabathia on the mound dealing with a hard-breaking slider and a tantalizing changeup to go with a fastball that occasionally rang in the low 90s. It also helped that the Yankees played exceptionally in the field and ran down several well-struck balls to the outfield.

Sabathia faced the minimum number of batters through the first six innings working with a 1-0 lead supplied by Mark Teixeira’s solo home run (No. 4) in the second inning off Alfredo Simon, who kept the Tigers close in not allowing a run after that.

The Tigers did not get a runner into scoring position until the seventh inning when they turned the game around into their favor. Rajai Davis led off with a single and raced to second after tagging up on Ian Kinsler flyout to deep left field. Miguel Cabrera, who grounded into double plays his first two times up, again hit the ball to the left side. Shortstop Didi Gregorius took a chance throwing the ball to second base in an attempt to trap Davis off the bag, but his throw was saved by second baseman Stephen Drew, who was able to get the second out of the inning by throwing to first base to get the plodding Cabrera.

The Yankees decided to walk Victor Martinez intentionally, which made sense with an open base and the designated hitter having hit the ball sharply in his first two at-bats with nothing to show for it. 

J.D. Martinez is no day at the beach, either, and he proved that with a slashing single off Gregorius’ glove in the hole that scored Davis with the tying run. Detroit grabbed the lead on a single up the middle by Yoenis Cespedes. J.D. Martinez headed for third base hoping to draw a throw to allow the slower Victor Martinez to score from second.

It worked, too. Jacoby Ellsbury threw to third base. While J.D. Martinez was eventually tagged out for the third out, Victor Martinez had already crossed the plate with what proved the deciding run.

Do not fault Ellsbury for the move. Cespedes’ grounder hit the lip of the grass behind second base, which slowed the ball down as the center fielder playing deep was charging. I doubt Ellsbury’s throw to the plate was certain to nail Victor Martinez.

The 2-1 Tigers lead would hold up because a familiar figure to Yankees fans pitched out of a jam in the eighth. With runners on first and third and one out, Joba Chamberlain came out of the bullpen to face Ellsbury, who hit the ball hard but into a rally-killing double play. 

There may be some second-guessing about a play before the DP when third base coach Joe Espada held Chase Headley at third base rather than waving him home from second base on a single to center by Gregorius. What Espada could not anticipate was that Davis, the Detroit center fielder, would bobble the ball for a moment before recovering a firing a bullet to the infield. Headley was no cinch to score in that spot, so I cannot fault the third base coach for playing it safe.

Joakim Soria made it 5-for-5 in saves with a scoreless ninth inning as the Tigers improved to 11-2 while the Yankees fell below .500 again at 6-7.

It was a tough loss for Sabathia, who looked a lot like the CC of old in the first complete game for a Yankees starter this season. To hold the Tigers to two runs and seven hits through eight innings is quite a feat. His record fell to 0-3, but the Yankees have every reason to be encouraged.

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