DETROIT—Thursday morning, the Detroit Tigers didn't know what to expect from Kyle Lobstein. By Thursday afternoon, it was clear he had delivered in a big way. Detroit walked off against the New York Yankees, gutting out a 3-2 win after both starter and his bullpen had held the fort well.
Whatever nerves Lobstein may have had making his first start at Comerica Park were calmed early with a quick first inning, as he set the Yankees down in order. He received some quick run support for confidence in the second after Nick Castellanos and Don Kelly singled and Alex Avila clubbed a sacrifice fly.
New York struck back in the third, getting a run off a Jacoby Ellsbury single. The run was made possible by a Castllanos throwing error at third. The Yankees took a 2-1 lead in the fourth when Brian McCann plated a runner thanks to a groundout. Detroit pulled back even in the fifth thanks to a Rajai Davis single.
Lobstein was lifted after giving the Tigers six innings of work in favor of Blaine Hardy. The rookie starter did well, allowing four hits and one earned run, providing his team with a chance to win late. That was especially true after the good work of Hardy, Joba Chamberlain and Phil Coke, who worked around trouble in the top of the ninth in a big way whiffing McCann after he nearly homered.
Detroit's offense continued to scuffle late, but put two runners on in the bottom of the ninth via a Victor Martinez double and a walk. Two batters later, Avila unexpectedly played hero, delivering the Tigers a walk off win with a moon shot single off the right field wall. Detroit escaped, and won the series.
Top Tiger: Blaine Hardy. Lobstein had a fantastic afternoon, but Hardy's one inning of work in relief with the game hanging in the balance shouldn't be lost, either. Most impressive was how he turned in the effort after pitching early on Wednesday night attempting to clean up for David Price. "He's young so he should be adaptable," Ausmus joked regarding Hardy's multiple roles. "When the game opened up (Wednesday), that's why we ended up using him only one inning so we could use him today." Hardy pitched Detroit through when they needed it the most, and though he didn't collect the win, he made it possible.
Bungling Bengal: None. Detroit had a solid afternoon from the pitchers and hitters. Though it was rough at times early, the team managed to pull it out late. Often times, these type of games are the ones that can propel teams through late in the season when things become a fight mentally and physically.
The Turning Point: Phil Coke dusts Brian McCann with two runners on. A relatively stress free ninth inning turned hairy fast with a walk to Mark Texiera. A Carlos Beltran single later, the Yankees had runners at the corners and Coke was under siege. Suddenly, McCann moved on an offering and attempted to give the Yankees the lead with a home run, but the ball drifted foul. Then, Coke came back and dusted him with high heat and roared his excitement. The moment seemed to charge Detroit up. "Momentum shifts are big in the game of baseball," Ausmus said. "That was a big out, especially after McCann nearly hit a home run." The excitement would soon carry over.
Play Of The Game: Alex Avila's clutch single in the ninth. Detroit put the first two men on base with a double and walk, but threatened to strand them after a pair of strikeouts. Then, Avila powered a ball to right field and peppered the wall, allowing the runs to score. Just like that, Detroit's offense was off the hook. "I was happy for him, we talked about it since spring training, if he drives in some runs for us, we felt like our offense could be boosted quite a bit," Ausmus said. "He's had his hot and cold streaks, but he's been swinging the bat better as of late." Perhaps the hit can get a key cog going.
Stat Of The Game: 3, the number of strikeouts the Tigers bullpen collected today, and number of hits the bullpen has scattered during their last two outings. Yesterday, they struck out five in solid mop up duty. Also over that stretch, Detroit has allowed no runs. It's a solid about face for a bullpen that's had its share of issues lately, and perhaps a sign that some trouble is over.
Quote To Note: "We can't control them unless we're playing against them, so, all we can do is try win our games." –Brad Ausmus. The manager admitted to checking on how the Royals are doing, but not allowing himself or the team to get overly concerned with how they are performing. Ausmus did admit that over the next month the Royals will be hard to catch if they continue on what's been a torrid 21-6 pace.
What's Next: The Tigers head out on the road to face the Chicago White Sox this weekend. Justin Verlander (11-11) will get the ball against Scott Carroll (5-8) on Friday night. The game begins at 8:10 p.m.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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