DETROIT — Aaron Hicks helped beat the Tigers with an impressive inside-outside game Friday night.
He hit two home runs — one an inside-the-park shot — in his second start since returning from the disabled list, and the Yankees held on for an 8-6 victory over the Tigers in front of 21,363 at Comerica Park.
“It’s incredible,” Aaron Judge said of Hicks’ impact. “You’ve got power from both sides of the plate, a Gold Glove [caliber] centerfielder. He’s an igniter. He gets us going. We saw that tonight.”
An erratic Dellin Betances outing in the eighth nearly flipped the night’s script entirely — he allowed three runs and saw the go-ahead run come to the plate — but with two on and two out, Chad Green struck out Dixon Machado. Aroldis Chapman struck out the side in a perfect ninth for his second save.
Held to three hits in the first six innings, the Tigers (4-9), expected to be among the worst teams in the majors this season, had nine in the seventh and eighth to cut a 6-1 deficit to 8-6.
The Yankees (7-7) had 11 hits, three by Ronald Torreyes and two each by Hicks, Brett Gardner and Miguel Andujar, who tripled and doubled.
Hicks, of course, had the most memorable night.
After a long double by Gary Sanchez in the second, Hicks blasted an inside-the-park two-run homer, a shot to right-center off Mike Fiers (1-1). The ball caromed off the scoreboard wall at just the right angle, from the Yankees’ perspective, and skittered toward left-center, far away from centerfielder Leonys Martin. Hicks did not appear to run at full speed out of the box but easily beat the throw home, diving across the plate with a headfirst slide — and a big smile on his face — before pounding the ground with both hands.
It was his first inside-the-park homer at any level, he said. “That’s a fun play,” said Hicks, still smiling afterward. “It’s not something you do every day.”
His thoughts on the ground?
“I’m exhausted,” he said.
His teammates exploded out of the dugout when Hicks slid across the plate. “The whole bench was waiting for him when he got in,” said Judge, who extended his hitting streak to 11 games with an RBI single in the fifth. “You don’t get to see that play too often, and when you do, it’s a pretty exciting play.”
One that hadn’t been pulled off by a Yankee since Curtis Granderson did it Aug. 21, 2011.
Hicks made it 6-1 in the sixth with a drive well over the rightfield fence off Fiers. He became the first Yankee with a multi-homer game that included an inside-the-parker since Hank Bauer did it on May 30, 1956 against the Senators.
“He’s such an important player for us,” Aaron Boone said. “I’ve talked about adding length to our lineup and you saw it there.”
Jordan Montgomery (1-0) was charged with three runs in six innings-plus. He took a 6-1 lead into the seventh before being knocked out by Victor Martinez’s RBI double and Gardner’s throwing error.
David Robertson allowed an inherited runner to score on a sacrifice fly to make it 6-3 and the Tigers got the tying run to the plate, but Robertson struck out Martin on a sweeping curve.
Some may have found Betances’ outing concerning, but Boone and the pitcher, who allowed five hits in two-thirds of an inning, weren’t among them.
“This is the best I’ve felt in a while,” said Betances, who entered the game with three straight scoreless outings. “It’s not alarming for me. If I’m throwing the ball like this, I think most of the time the results will be on my side.”