Lakeland, Fla., March 4, 2017; Yankees 11, Tigers 1 — Perhaps smarting from their second road loss Friday, this to the Blue Jays by one run, scored in the bottom of the ninth (the same manner in which they lost their first), the Bombers pounded out an early 3-0 lead against the Tigers in Lakeland Saturday afternoon, and added to it frame after frame.
They had taken an 8-0 lead over a visiting Tigers squad earlier in the week, and held on to win 9-5, but that was against a lineup led off by Ian Kinsler, though not followed by usual suspects Victor Martinez, Miguel Cabrera, and J.D. Martinez, guys who might as well be the Trinity, given the way they’re worshiped in this small west Florida city. You got the sense that the Yanks knew the task ahead, and were ready for it.
The offense went to work immediately, treating possible Detroit rotation stalwarts Jordan Zimmermann and Anibal Sanchez like BP pitchers. A bunt single and two walks presented a threat in the first, and Zimmermann was out after two having surrendered another hit, throwing 37 pitches to collect six outs. The threats became more real against Sanchez; they jumped him, as Gary Sanchez followed an Aaron Hicks leadoff walk in the third with a shot to left that Comerica Park would strain to contain. A Starlin Castro rbi double and a Hicks shot to right in the fourth had a 5-0 rout going.
Following two innings of Michael Pineda and one of Dellin Betances to start for New York, the Tigers reached Chad Green for three hits and a run in the bottom of the fourth, but it represented the briefest of pauses. The visitors tacked on four runs in the fifth and two more in the sixth. Both rallies featured several of the nine singles and nine walks Yankee batters accumulated; the only additional extra base hit would come from the red hot Billy McKinney, who would finish the game in left going 2-for-2 with a double, though neither hit would affect the final score.
Detroit would use nine pitchers, and none would retire the Yanks without a blemish except for Logan Kensing, who faced and retired one batter closing the fourth for Sanchez; and career minor leaguer Arcenio Leon, with a one-two-three ninth inning. For the Yanks, Ben Heller, Jonathan Holder, Chasen Shreve, and Giuseppe Gallegos would subdue the Tigers, and the crowd, the rest of the way.
The rampaging Yankees are 8-2, and came this close to winning the other two. And you don’t have to dig deep to come up with stars of the game. Not only did Gary Sanchez open the scoring with his booming home run, he worked a walk, drove in three, and threw out a baserunner attempting to steal when the game was still in doubt. And Aaron Hicks, a guy the Yankee fanbase (including yours truly) has trouble believing in, had two hits and a walk, and his homer may have been the nail in Detroit’s Saturday game coffin.
Comedienne, SCTV alum, and an actress famous for appearing in a long line of very funny movies, Catherine O’Hara celebrates her birthday this day. In the opinion of this scribe, there can be but one answer to the question who was star No. one of this Yankees victory. Starter Michel Pineda retired six straight Detroit hitters to start this game after Kinsler sneaked a grounder past first for an opening single. Michael retired Kinsler at second on a comebacker, then proceeded to strike out the next five Tigers, all of them swinging. He pounded the zone with authority, but more often than not got the crushing last strike on an off-speed slider. He threw 19 of 25 pitches for strikes, six of them resulting in flailing, off-balance swings.
So the Sanchise, Sanchez, was great, and Hicks rose to the occasion. McKinney continues to impress, as does the Yankee pitching staff from top to bottom. But Michael Pineda? He was,
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