The Yankees have the most home runs in the majors, and the Tigers have the fewest, but Thursday night, none of that mattered much.
Not on a night when there were long home runs and historic ones. Home runs to all fields, and eight homers total. And there were back-to-back home runs, too, and in the end, that ended the Yankees’ night in failure.
With a two-run lead in the ninth and the Red Sox losing at the time in Chicago, the Yankees and Dellin Betances squandered a pivotal chance. Betances gave up a two-run home run to Victor Martinez, his second homer of the night, and one right after that to Niko Goodrum, to lose, 8-7, at Yankee Stadium. Making it even worse, the Red Sox overcame a 4-0 deficit and defeated the White Sox, 9-4, dropping the Yankees 8 1/2 games back in the AL East.
It was the first time Betances allowed two home runs in a game. Prior to Thursday, Betances had allowed just one home run in his previous 39 appearances, a span of 38 2/3 innings.
“We don’t want to give up any lead in any situation,” said Betances, who was also dealing with a blister. “Obviously, offensively we put up a bunch of runs and you don’t want to give it up, so it [stinks], but it’s baseball. You try to do your best to correct the mistakes you made and do better the next time you’re out there.”
The whole thing put a pall over what should have been a positive night: A night that saw Giancarlo Stanton hit his 300th home run – becoming the fifth-fastest player to reach that milestone – and saw Luke Voit continue his torrid streak with a go-ahead, two-run home run in the seventh.
But everyone expects that type of production from the Yankees, who have 218 homers. The Tigers came in with 106 and hit five more – meaning they hit almost 5 percent of a season’s worth of home runs Thursday.
Much of that had to do with J.A. Happ, who’s been strong all year ... against almost everyone but the lowly Tigers (54-80).
Happ’s evening got off to an unpleasant start when Jeimer Candelario drilled a 2-and-2 fastball to the stands in left for his second leadoff homer of the year. Going into Thursday, Happ was 0-1 against the Tigers this year, with a 9.28 ERA, and that number actually went up when he left with one out in the fourth, to 9.60.
“It’s very frustrating, obviously,” Happ said. “We’re trying to win every game, every day, so it kind of put us in a position – especially because we were battling there and we were coming back, getting some runs back when I gave them up. To not be able to hold a lead, I take a lot of pride in that and it’s not something that I feel like I give up a lot, so tonight was very frustrating.”
Happ allowed five runs and 10 hits, including three home runs. It was Happ’s worst outing in his fairly charmed start with the Yankees. Since being traded July 26, he had earned a win in every one of his five starts.
The Yankees very briefly took the lead in the third, but at least they did it in historic fashion. With two out and one on, Stanton hit his 300th, a two-run shot, to make it 2-1.
Stanton, who had been riding an 11-game homerless streak, blasted Francisco Liriano’s changeup 387 feet to right for his 33rd homer. He reached 300 in his 1,119th game, two games behind Alex Rodriguez (Ralph Kiner is the fastest to do it, at 1,087). Stanton also is the ninth youngest player to reach 300, at 28 years and 295 days.
But just a few minutes after Stanton’s curtain call, Ronny Rodriguez hit a two-run homer off Happ to put the Tigers back up 3-2. In the fourth, Voit, back at first base and hitting cleanup after a lackluster game by Greg Bird on Wednesday, singled to lead off the inning. Gleyber Torres hit a moon shot to center for his 21st homer to put the Yankees back up by one.
Martinez later homered for the Tigers and Aaron Hicks scored on an error to tie it at 5, before Voit hit a two-run homer in the seventh for the 7-5 lead. Voit is hitting .357 in 14 games with the Yankees, with 11 RBIs and eight runs.
“He’s going to continue to earn playing time with the way he’s performing,” Boone said of Voit, who’s played only 84 major-league games. “Results have been there, but I think if you look at his at-bats, it’s usually a competitive at-bat every time. That, I think, is an encouraging sign for him. There’s going to be plenty of at-bats for him, especially if this continues.”