DETROIT – Brad Ausmus saw the ball come off Brian McCann’s bat and sail toward the foul pole in right field, a potentially devastating drive with the game tied in the ninth inning.
“From where I was standing you could tell it was kind of hooking,” said Ausmus, Detroit’s first-year manager. “Pretty quickly off the bat, I was pretty confident it was going foul.”
It ended up foul by a few feet, and Phil Coke went on to strike McCann out. Then the Tigers took advantage of the reprieve, scoring in the bottom of the ninth to beat the New York Yankees 3-2 on Thursday.
Alex Avila’s two-out single off the wall in right gave Detroit the victory. The Tigers, still chasing Kansas City for the AL Central lead, pulled even with Seattle in the race for the American League’s second wild card. The Yankees are three games back.
A day after David Price gave up nine straight hits, the Tigers sent Kyle Lobstein to the mound for his first major league start. The rookie performed well, allowing one earned run in six innings.
Then Detroit’s bullpen held off New York until the Tigers scored in the ninth off Shawn Kelley (2-5). Victor Martinez led off with a double through a shifted infield, then Kelley walked J.D. Martinez before striking out Nick Castellanos and pinch-hitter Torii Hunter.
Avila followed with a drive to right that Ichiro Suzuki couldn’t quite get to. Kelley flung his glove to the ground as soon as Avila connected.
“That’s about as bad as I’ve felt walking off a mound in my career,” Kelley said. “I got myself in a hole, but then I got the two outs I needed, and I had a chance to keep the team alive. But I hung a slider, and Alex Avila can hit that pitch. Most guys can hit that pitch.”
Coke (2-2) got one very eventful out for the win.
Hiroki Kuroda allowed two runs and four hits in seven innings for New York, but he’s still without a victory over the Tigers in his career. He’s beaten baseball’s other 29 teams.
Avila opened the scoring in the second with a sacrifice fly, then Jacoby Ellsbury tied it in the third with an RBI single.
McCann’s RBI groundout in the fourth put New York ahead, and Rajai Davis tied it with a run-scoring single in the fifth.