DETROIT — Making his first MLB start after a strong relief appearance in Minnesota, Kyle Lobstein did not disappoint as he tossed three shutout innings and gave up just four hits of two-run ball in six frames. Supported by a strong bullpen led by lefty Blaine Hardy, the Tigers won 3-2 on a crushed walk-off RBI single by Alex Avila with two outs.
Lobstein retired the Yankees in order in the first inning, issuing two flyouts and a groundout of Derek Jeter. The third and fourth innings yielded the only tough spots of the afternoon for Lobstein, giving up one run in each but he recovered to deliver two 1-2-3 innings, finishing his day on 83 pitches.
It wasn't the first time Lobstein had pitched in a big league stadium, but these weren't the Twins Lobstein was being asked to face. By record, the Yankees have been the hottest team in baseball and the lefty had all of one major league game in long-relief under his belt with somewhat of an up and down season as a starter in Triple-A.
"Little bit of nerves," Lobstein said. "Actually the first inning was pretty smooth sailing for me. The second inning's when it kind of kicked in. I got a little bit of nerves going. Just going out there, just trying to go as deep as I can in the game and pitch to contact, which I did today and I was able to keep us in the game and give us a chance to win."
The Tigers offense didn't explode at any point in the game but they did enough to keep pace with the Yankees, keeping it tied 2-2 going into the ninth largely due to a bullpen that's gotten its act together as of late.
The turning point was when Tigers manager Brad Ausmus pulled Joba Chamberlain in the ninth with two outs for Phil Coke. A single put runners at the corners but Coke reached back to retire Brian McCann on a violent swinging strikeout, which in turn got the dugout fired up for the ninth and the momentum changed rapidly in favor of the Tigers.
"Momentum shifts are big in the game of baseball," Ausmus said. "It's not something you can put a statistic on, it's not very tangible but they can be big. The emotions of the game in a singular game or over the course of a series of games can be very important."
The leadoff double by Victor Martinez was key. A strong finish by the bullpen, coupled with Martinez's at-bat lead to a walk by J.D. Martinez. Bearing similarities to last season's walk-off home run with two outs by Torii Hunter — with only one day of a difference between them — Hunter stepped to the plate with one out this time.
But this time it was up to Alex Avila to do the job as Hunter struck out swinging, leaving two on and two out and Avila 0-2 with a sacrifice fly. On the first pitch Avila did what he has a habit of doing; coming up clutch in big situations and he hit his fourth career walk-off RBI single, handing the Tigers not only a big win but the series against the Yankees as well.
"I knew I hit it good," Avila said. "I didn't know if I hit it well enough to go out. Then again there's been some balls that I've hit like that that have gone out, but I knew I hit it well enough to get a shot at driving in the run."
Kyle Lobstein: Making his first MLB start, Lobstein pitched six innings, allowing just two runs on four hits while walking only one batter and striking out none. Lobstein retired the last eight batters he faced, including a nine-pitch sixth inning and had three 1-2-3 innings on 83 pitches. (MLB.com video)
Alex Avila: Hit the game-winning run in walk-off fashion automatically lands you in the roars column. Beyond that though, Avila hit a sacrifice fly in the second inning to put the Tigers on the board in the first place. Avila drove in two out the three runs in the game. (MLB.com video)
Rajai Davis: A leadoff hit in the first inning and an RBI single in the fifth gave Davis a 2-4 afternoon. Defensively, he ate up any and all fly balls that dared traipse into his territory. There would be no hits allowed to the center of the ballpark Wednesday afternoon with Davis keeping watch. (MLB.com video)
Don Kelly: Scored twice and was 1-2 with a walk. A single in the second was followed by a leadoff walk in the fifth inning. A wild pitch by Kuroda advanced Kelly to second base and he scored on the RBI single by Davis to tie the game 2-2.
Hit-and-run: In the second inning, Nick Castellanos hit a sharp single to center and Don Kelly followed with a single on a hit-and-run play that put runners at the corners. With two on and one out, Alex Avila hit a deep sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Castellanos and putting the Tigers up 1-0.
The bullpen (again!): A welcome relief to the Tigers bullpen, Hardy tossed yet another 1 1/3 scoreless innings with a swinging strikeout of Chase Headley to end the seventh inning. Joba Chamberlain relieved Hardy with one out in the eighth, retiring the next to batters to end the inning. Chamberlain got the first two outs in the ninth inning but a walk sent Ausmus to the bullpen, bringing out one Phil Coke. Facing Beltran, Coke gave up a single and put runners at the corners but he emphatically struck out McCann to end the threat. (MLB.com video)
Ichiro is peering out at the mound, trying to figure out if Joba is under that beard.— Dave Hogg (@Stareagle) August 28, 2014
Joba, did Coke almost give up a home run to McCann, and then dramatically strike him out? pic.twitter.com/DsuOABQfyY— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) August 28, 2014
The defense (third inning excluded): Nick Castellanos snagged a scalded liner bound for extra-base territory in the second inning. The shift was then applied to Brian McCann and he hit a rocket right at Castellanos, who was positioned in shallow right field. Castellanos fired to Andrew Romine and a throw to Miguel Cabrera completed the 5*-6-3 inning-ending double play to get Lobstein out of a one-on one-out situation. Meanwhile, Kinsler continued to do what he's done all season, dominate the second base position.
That double-play pitch is copyright Rick Porcello, all rights reserved.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) August 28, 2014
Second and third innings: A two-out throwing error by Castellanos put Wheeler at second base. He came around to score on the RBI single by Ellsbury to tie the game 1-1 in the second inning. A leadoff single by Martin Prado and a ripped double by Carlos Beltran put runners on second and third base with one out in the third. Brian McCann put the Yankees ahead 2-1 on a 4-3 RBI groundout.
The offense through most of the game: After Davis hit the game-tying single in the fifth, the Tigers offense snoozed through the next two innings and only woke briefly to tie the game until the ninth inning.
Miguel Cabrera: He's lost nearly all of his Miggy-like powers. The ailing slugger finished 0-4 with an excuse-me swing of a strikeout in the eighth with Kinsler at second base and two outs.
After the game the Tigers announced that Lobstein had been sent back down to Triple-A for the moment, the contract of Evan Reed had been purchased, and Kyle Ryan would start game two for Saturday's doubleheader. Originally Ryan would have pitched game one, but the White Sox moved Chris Sale's start from the night game to the day game, thereby prompting a move by the Tigers to move Max Scherzer to game one.
Right-handed reliever Luke Putkonen has been on the disabled list since April 19 for right elbow inflammation. He later underwent surgery to remove bone spurs on June 13 and has not pitched for the Tigers since April 18. Wednesday morning the Tigers announced that Putkonen would begin his injury rehabilitation assignment with Single-A West Michigan Wednesday night. Bullpen sessions have gone well and Putkonen faced live batting practice a few days ago, however, before returning to the Tigers rotation he would need some outings at the minor-league level.
"Assuming he's healthy, he would certainly be a guy that has some experience that you would look to if he's able to pitch," Ausmus said.
STREAKS AND STATS:
- Alex Avila hit the Tigers' MLB-leading 53rd sacrifice fly in the second inning, scoring Castellanos.
- Kyle Lobstein made his first MLB start, tossing six innings of two-run ball (one earned) on four hits. He retired eight of the last batters faced.
- Lobstein is first starter on any team to go at least six innings against the Yankees, allow one-or-fewer earned runs and strike out none since Tigers starter Steve Sparks tossed a three-hit, one-run complete game on June 19, 2001.
- Alex Avila hit the fourth walk-off RBI of his career.
- The Tigers take the series and pull within two games of the Royals as this recap is being written. They also sit even with the Mariners for the wildcard spot. The Mariners have the evening off and the Royals game starts at 7:10pm Central.
- Wednesday's attendance of 42,647 marked the 10th consecutive sellout crowd, and the 25th of this season.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
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TOP TEN COMMENTERS:
|# Recs||Commenter||Comment Link|
|5||NCDee||ALEX WALKS IT OFF!!!|
|2||Honeyman||I wonder if the Lobster wanted to pitch the 7th and is boilin' in the dugout?|
|2||Naqamel||Calling it now.|