Probably the most embarrassing game of the season. Definitely the stupidest. The Yankees lost Thursday’s series finale 10-6 to the Tigers, and the two teams got into a beanball war. Who cares about the postseason race when you can stoop to the level of a fourth place team? Not like the Yankees have anything to lose. Five Yankees were ejected and chances are suspensions are coming as well. Hard to think of a worse possible outcome. A true lose-lose affair.
In the first few innings of Thursday’s game, each time one team scored, the other scored in the next half inning. Those shutdown innings, as announcers like to call them, weren’t happening. The Tigers scored a first inning run on Justin Upton’s solo homer. The Yankees answered back with a run on Chase Headley’s single in the second. Aaron Judge singled and advanced on a wild pitch to set that one up.
Gary Sanchez gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead with a solo home run in the top of the fourth, then the Tigers came right back with a run in the bottom half. Nick Castellanos doubled and John Hicks drove him in with a single. An Aaron Hicks sac fly in the top of the fifth gave the Yankees another lead, this one 3-2. That inning was set up by Ian Kinsler’s leadoff error. Ronald Torreyes reached, advanced to second on Austin Romine’s fielder’s choice, advanced to third on Gardner’s infield single, and scored on the sac fly. The two teams combined to score exactly one run in five of the first nine half-innings.
The Ugly Fifth
Everything fell apart in the fifth inning. It all started with an error too. The usually sure-handed Didi Gregorius let a Mikie Mahtook ground ball get under his glove. Play that should’ve been made. Upton followed with a double into the left field corner to give the Tigers runners at second and third with no outs, ending Jaime Garcia’s day. I’m not sure why Garcia was left in to face Upton there. Upton took Garcia deep earlier in the game and is hitting .344/.422/.688 (192 wRC+) against southpaws this year. If his leash was one more baserunner, why not go to the righty reliever there? I guess Joe Girardi was hoping for the ground ball double play. Alas.
Anyway, it doesn’t really matter because the righty reliever came in and barfed all over the place. The righty reliever: Adam Warren. Warren did strike out the (formerly great?) Miguel Cabrera, so that’s cool. It stopped being cool after that. Warren allowed a sac fly to Castellanos to tie the game 3-3, and that’s fine. Runners on second and third and no outs? You kinda expect a run to score there. Keep it to one and that’s fine. Warren didn’t keep it at one.
The next two at-bats were killer. Warren couldn’t put James McCann away in a 2-2 count — McCann fouled off three two-strike pitches — and walked him. He then couldn’t put Hicks away in a 1-2 count and walked him. Yuck. JaCoby Jones punched a two-run single to right and Jose Iglesias walloped a one-run ground double into the right-center field gap. McCann, Hicks, Jones, and Iglesias all reached base in two strike counts. Awful. The Tigers took a 6-3 lead.
If you remember back to when these two teams played in Yankee Stadium a few weeks ago, there was a bit of a beanball war in the first game of the series. The Yankees plunked Mahtook twice in the game, unintentionally, and Michael Fulmer retaliated by hitting Jacoby Ellsbury in the hip. And that was that. They played two more games in the series and nothing else happening.
Fast forward to Thursday. Fulmer plunked Sanchez in the fifth inning, right in the hip, and I thought it was unintentional (at first). The Yankees had a man on base and Fulmer was missing way off the plate to his armside all inning. It looked like a pitch got away from him. Either way, in the sixth, Tommy Kahnle retaliated by throwing behind Cabrera. Kahnle was immediately ejected, and Girardi stormed out of the dugout because warnings hadn’t been issued after Fulmer hit Sanchez. Girardi was tossed too.
That’s when hell broke loose:
- Sanchez definitely punched someone in the dog pile. A few times. You can see it in the video. I think it was Cabrera, but it doesn’t really matter. Even though he wasn’t ejected, Gary is probably looking at a suspension. MLB doesn’t let punches go unpunished.
- Romine and Cabrera were also ejected, obviously. That meant the Yankees had to give up the DH to move Sanchez behind the plate. Romine threw punches too, so he might get suspended as well. Imagine both catchers get suspended? With Kyle Higashioka on the Triple-A disabled list? Oy.
- Fulmer staying in the game was the stupidest thing ever. He started this mess by throwing at Sanchez and yet there he was, the next half-inning after the brawl, out there on the mound. How ridiculous. What a screw up by the umpiring crew.
- First player out of the dugout for the Yankees: Sonny Gray. The guy has been here like two weeks, and he’s already sprinting out of the dugout to get in the middle of a brawl.
Clearly, the Tigers were the aggressor. Fulmer hit Sanchez, Cabrera first said something to Romine, and Cabrera first shoved Romine. I imagine (hope) MLB will take that into consideration when deciding on discipline and all that. The fact punches were thrown leads me to believe the Yankees are not going to get off easy here. They could very well lose Sanchez and Romine to suspension. That’s not good. We’ll see what happens.
The Yankees and Tigers do not play again this year, so this isn’t carrying over. At least not until next year. Hopefully the Yankees don’t lose anyone to a suspension or worse, an injury. I know you have to stick up for your players and all that, and Sanchez is your cornerstone star player, but losing players because of a brawl with a loser fourth place team would suck. The Yankees are in the postseason race and losing Sanchez in particular would be a huge blow.
But Wait, It Gets Worse
The brawl fired up the Yankees! For at least one inning. They answered right back with three runs in the top of the seventh the tie the game 6-6. Fulmer walked Torreyes and Ellsbury to start the inning — Ellsbury was pinch-hitting for the pitcher’s spot after Sanchez moved behind the plate — and Gardner dunked a single to center to score a run. The Yankees were in business.
Hicks hit what I thought was a go-ahead three-run home run — it sounded awfully good off the bat — and it would’ve been a three-run home run, except Upton made a jumping catch at the wall to take it away. Argh. It still went for a sac fly to bring the Yankees to within a run. Gardner smartly tagged up and went to second on the play, which allowed him to score on Sanchez’s single back up the middle. That tied the game 6-6. Hooray!
Dellin Betances came in to start the bottom of the seventh, and in the process Ellsbury was double-switched in to push the pitcher’s lineup spot down. Who was removed on the double switch? Judge, which seems crazy. The pitcher batting behind Sanchez ensured he would not get another pitch to hit the entire game. There was no one on the bench who would make the Tigers even think twice about pitching to Sanchez. The Yankees took the bat right out of their best player’s hands with that double switch. Ultimately it didn’t matter. Still.
Anyway, Dellin’s second pitch of the game hit McCann in the head. Hit him square. It was ugly and scary. You can see it here. No, Betances did not hit McCann in the head on purpose. He’s just very wild. But he had to be thrown out, and he was. You can’t let a guy stay in the game when he hits someone in the head after a brawl like that. Benches cleared again and this time no punches were thrown, as far as I know. Betances was ejected though, and the Tigers had the go-ahead run on first with no outs. The Yankees brought in David Robertson, and he hit Hicks with a pitch. Dude. Hit him with an 0-2 fastball in the forearm. Robertson was not ejected, but still. Not good.
After hitting Hicks and all the other nonsense, Robertson appeared to be scared out of the strike zone, so to speak. He was trying to be way too fine. As a result, he walked Jones on four pitches to load the bases. Jones was trying to give him an out to bunt the runners up, and Robertson walked him. Brutal. Iglesias clobbered a bases-clearing double into the gap to give the Tigers a 9-6 lead. Turns out the brawl fired up the Tigers too. The Yankees let Detroit load the bases with no outs without putting a ball in play. They got what they deserved that inning.
The plunkings were not over. Alex Wilson hit Todd Frazier in the leg with a pitch in the top of the eighth — Wilson and Tigers manager Brad Ausmus were ejected — and yet again the benches cleared. Gardner was pretty fired up that time. Fortunately Caleb Smith was smart enough not to drill someone in the bottom of the eighth. He gave up a solo home run to McCann instead. The bullpen: 4 IP, 6 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 7 K. Awful. Just awful.
Happy birthday to Gardner. He celebrated his 34th birthday by going 4-for-5. Sanchez had two hits as well. Judge and Headley had the other hits. The three walks were drawn by Frazier, Torreyes, and Ellsbury. And there were all those hit-by-pitches too. At the end of the day, the offense did its part. Six runs should be enough. The bullpen really melted down in this one. Twice.
Another bad start for Garcia, who now has a 5.95 ERA in four starts with the Yankees. He’s allowed 16 runs (13 earned) in 19.2 innings since the trade. I get the sense Jordan Montgomery will be taking this rotation spot once rosters expand in September. It’s good the Yankees added pitching depth at the deadline, but their hold on a wildcard spot is too tenuous to keep running Garcia out there like this.
A recap of the ejections: Kahnle, Girardi, and Romine in the sixth inning, and Betances and acting manager Robbie Thomson in the seventh inning. Cabrera, Ausmus, and Wilson were ejected for the Tigers. What a crap job by the umpires too. No, they didn’t throw any punches or pitches, but not issuing a warning allowed things to escalate.
Box Score, WPA Graph & Standings
For the box score and updated standings, head over to ESPN. For the video highlights, go to MLB.com. We have a Bullpen Workload page. Here’s the loss probability graph:
Players Weekend! That’ll be fun. Every team will be wearing cool uniforms and the players will have nicknames on their jerseys. Hopefully Sanchez will be part of it. The Yankees are heading back to the Bronx to begin a ten-game homestand, starting with three against the Mariners. Left-handers CC Sabathia and Ariel Miranda will be the starters in Friday night’s opener. RAB Tickets can get you into Yankee Stadium for any of the ten games on the homestand.