Aaron Boone exploded. And then the Yankees exploded.
One inning after Boone was ejected for an angry and animated tirade over balls and strikes, the Yankees — who had been held hitless by Tigers righthander Jordan Zimmermann for 5 1/3 innings — erupted for three home runs in a four-batter span in the sixth.
That turned a three-run deficit into a one-run lead. But the Yankees then fell behind and were poised for another crushing defeat until an umpire’s decision in their favor led to a 7-5 victory on a wild Friday night at Yankee Stadium.
With the Yankees trailing 5-4 with two outs in the eighth, Luke Voit walked on a 3-and-2 pitch to load the bases. He tried to check his swing and might have gone too far, but first-base umpire Paul Nauert called it a no-swing. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire was ejected for arguing that call.
Voit said Gardenhire asked him, ''Did you swing?'' -- but not in an angry fashion, and Gardenhire had a smirk on his face. All Voit did was laugh, he said.
Boone declined to address whether he thought the umpires missed the call, saying, "I thought it was a good at-bat. Worked the walk there, set up Gleyber nice."
Gleyber Torres followed with a two-run single to left — Mikie Mahtook dived for it and had it bounce off his head — to give the Yankees a 6-5 lead. The Yankees got an insurance run on an infield single by Austin Romine.
It didn’t look as if the Yankees were going to be thanking the umpires when Boone was ejected in the fifth.
Boone was tossed by plate umpire Nic Lentz during Torres' at-bat. Boone stormed out of the dugout, screaming at Lentz, to continue a discussion that had begun in the bottom of the first inning when Lentz held up his hand during Aaron Hicks' at-bat to tell the Yankees to stop complaining about balls and strikes.
They didn’t stop.
After the ejection, Boone got right in Lentz’s face — perhaps a little too close. Boone’s cap brushed the umpire’s cap, and Lentz could be seen saying, “That’s contact. That’s contact.” If Major League Baseball agrees, Boone could be suspended for making contact with an umpire.
Boone then channeled his inner Billy Martin. He crouched behind the plate, held up his hand as if he were catching a pitch and said to Lentz, “That’s a strike.” Then Boone moved his hand outside the strike zone and said, “That’s a ball.” Then he walked back to Lentz to point his finger in the umpire’s face and make a final point.
Said Boone, "I hadn't stretched yet tonight, so I just wanted to make sure I was good and loose. I was just . . . I don't know. I guess giving my kids something to make fun of me about."
Did Boone’s outburst fire up the Yankees? You be the judge.
Brett Gardner got the Yankees’ first hit on his bobblehead night when he crushed a two-run homer into the second deck in right to make it 3-2 in the sixth. Hicks tied it one batter later with a homer to right and Miguel Andujar followed with the go-ahead blast to left.
Torres said of Boone, "He protects all the guys, for sure. In that moment, everybody's like mad. He's the manager. He did the job. We feel proud for that and after that we were a little more excited and we tried to win. And we did. Gardy got a homer and Hicks and Miggy, too. Everybody after that was super-excited. We started playing a little more excited, a little more heart."
The Yankees’ only baserunners before Gardner’s home run came on a one-out walk to Giancarlo Stanton in the fourth and an error by second baseman Dawel Lugo on Romine’s leadoff grounder in the sixth. That error made three of the Yankees’ four sixth-inning runs unearned.
Luis Severino allowed three runs in six innings, struck out 10 and was in line for his 18th win after the Yankees took the lead. But Jonathan Holder and Zach Britton allowed the Tigers to tie the score at 4 in the seventh, with pinch hitter Mahtook contributing a two-out RBI single off Britton. Detroit took a 5-4 lead in the eighth on a sacrifice fly by Ronny Rodriguez off Britton -- who wound up getting the win.
One night earlier, the Yankees entered the ninth with a 7-5 lead and Dellin Betances recorded three strikeouts. But he also allowed three runs on two home runs to blow the save and take the loss as the Tigers shocked the Yankees, 8-7.
On Friday, they entered the ninth with a 7-5 lead and David Robertson recorded three strikeouts. He also worked around a leadoff single and a one-out walk to pick up the save.
Notes & quotes: Gary Sanchez will be activated from the disabled list on Saturday . . . The crowd of 41,026 pushed the Yankees over the 3-million mark in attendance for an MLB record 20th straight season . . . The Yankees' three home runs gave them 221 in 135 games, a pace that projects to 265 -- one more than the Mariners' record of 264 set in 1997.