DETROIT (AP) — 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.
With Anibal Sanchez still recovering from an injury — and doubleheaders on the schedule last weekend and this weekend — the Tigers have needed spot starts from some less familiar names. Robbie Ray and Buck Farmer both failed to get out of the second inning late last week, but Lobstein was solid, allowing only four hits and a walk.
“It’s a close race and they’re trying to win every game,” he said. “I understood that, but at the same time, you’ve just got to go out there and treat it as any other day.”
Lobstein was optioned to Triple-A Toledo after the game. The Tigers purchased the contract of right-hander Evan Reed from the Mud Hens. Ausmus announced that LHP Kyle Ryan will make his major league debut Saturday when he starts as part of a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox.
OFFENSIVE WOES: Since that eight-run inning against Price, the Yankees have scored only two runs in 15 innings — and that was against the unproven Lobstein and Detroit’s erratic bullpen. At one point Thursday, New York made 16 straight outs.
Yankees: RHP Masahiro Tanaka was on the field before the game throwing 49 pitches in a simulated game. Manager Joe Girardi said Tanaka was able to use all his pitches. The Japanese star hasn’t pitched since July 8 because of a partial tear of the ulnar collateral ligament.
Tigers: RHP Joakim Soria (left oblique strain) threw off flat ground Tuesday and Wednesday and felt no pain. He is scheduled to throw again Friday at a longer distance. … RHP Luke Putkonen was scheduled to begin an injury rehabilitation assignment with Class A West Michigan on Thursday night. He has been sidelined since April 19 because of right elbow inflammation.
Yankees: Chris Capuano (1-3) takes the mound Friday night in the opener of a three-game series at Toronto. Mark Buehrle (11-8) starts for the Blue Jays — he is 1-12 lifetime against the Yankees, and has lost his last 10 decisions.
Tigers: Detroit begins a three-day, four-game set in Chicago against the White Sox. Justin Verlander (11-11) pitches Friday against Scott Carroll (5-8).