DETROIT — Ugly across the board.
An ugly 10-6 loss to the Tigers at Comerica Park on Thursday afternoon became even uglier because of three bench-clearing incidents that included punches thrown and could lead to suspensions issued to key Yankees such as Gary Sanchez and Dellin Betances.
Brett Gardner had four hits and the red-hot Sanchez hit his 27th home run, but that was pushed to the back burner because of what happened in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings. The benches cleared three times and there were eight ejections: relievers Tommy Kahnle and Betances, catcher Austin Romine, manager Joe Girardi and bench coach Rob Thomson for the Yankees and manager Brad Ausmus, designated hitter Miguel Cabrera and reliever Alex Wilson for the Tigers.
The players were mostly restrained afterward, but Girardi was not, opening fire at the umpiring crew. “Just a very poor job on their part,” he said. “Very, very poor.”
After Sanchez hit his fourth homer of the series in the fourth inning, Tigers starter Michael Fulmer hit him in the left hip in the fifth. Kahnle struck out the first two Tigers in the sixth, but then his first pitch whizzed behind Cabrera, and plate umpire Carlos Torres immediately ejected him.
That incensed Girardi, who charged out of the dugout, angry that there had not been a preemptive warning and, additionally, that nothing had happened when Fulmer hit Sanchez.
“If that’s not intentional, I don’t know what is,” said Girardi, who earlier said he believed everything was a carryover from July 31, when Kahnle hit Mikie Mahtook in the head and Fulmer plunked Jacoby Ellsbury in the right hip in retaliation.
Girardi went after Torres, in his first year on the full-time umpiring staff, with a vengeance and eventually was tossed, then spent almost as much time yelling at crew chief Dana DeMuth.
Aroldis Chapman replaced Kahnle, and while Torres was halfway to the mound, Romine and Cabrera started jawing at the plate behind him. Romine yanked off his mask and Cabrera shoved Romine, then threw two punches at him. Both players ended up in the dirt near the plate as the benches emptied, and Romine got several shots in before being pulled off.
Romine — who also could face a suspension — said Cabrera opened by saying: “ ‘Do you have a problem with me?’ I said, ‘This isn’t about you.’ And then he pushed me.”
Romine later added, “I’m not going to let someone try and throw punches at me, I’m going to defend myself. It was a little odd, I thought, that I got thrown out for defending myself. But again, I think he was looking for a confrontation . . . In this case, someone wanted to instigate something.”
Not surprisingly, Cabrera — who during the July 31 game appeared agitated in between Mahtook’s beaning and the pitch that hit Ellsbury — had a slightly different take.
“When they throw at me, it was OK. They want to defend Gary Sanchez, I was cool with that,” Cabrera told Detroit reporters. “When he started arguing with the umpire, I said to Romine, ‘Calm down.’ And he said, ‘I’m not [expletive] talking to you.’ ”
That ejection had Girardi as steamed as anything. “I guess Romine’s just supposed to stand there and take a punch,” said Girardi, Cabrera’s manager on the 2006 Marlins. “I guess that’s what he’s [supposed to do]. Stupid.”
At one point, Sanchez appeared to throw a punch or two at Cabrera before being yanked away. If Sanchez, who has 13 homers and 27 RBIs in his last 26 games, gets suspended, that could be the lasting impact of the afternoon from the Yankees’ perspective.
“At the moment, instinct takes over because you want to defend your teammate,” Sanchez said through his translator. “That’s your family out there. Everything happened so quickly. It’s a blur right now.”
The Yankees tied it with three runs in the top of the seventh, and it got wild again in the bottom half when on his second pitch of the inning, Betances hit James McCann in the head with a 98-mph fastball. The benches came out but there wasn’t much more than some light grabbing and holding, and Betances stayed in the game. That is, until Ausmus demanded that he be tossed. After the umpires huddled, DeMuth said Betances was gone, touching off another heated argument, this one resulting in Thomson’s ejection.
“I’m not trying to hit anybody in the head. You can end somebody’s career that way,” said Betances, who said the ball “slipped” from his hand. “We just scored three runs. That’s the last thing I want to do.”
DeMuth told a pool reporter that intent didn’t play into it. “It wasn’t necessarily of him intentionally beaning the batter, but to keep control of the situation, I deemed it necessary that he went,” he said.
David Robertson took over for Betances and promptly hit John Hicks with an 0-and-2 pitch — the benches stayed put this time — before walking Jacoby Jones to load the bases. Jose Iglesias’ three-run double made it 9-6, and McCann avenged his beaning by homering off Caleb Smith in the eighth.
With one out in the eighth, Wilson hit Todd Frazier, touching off the third skirmish. That featured Gardner going after Ausmus, who was ejected along with Wilson.
“Brad Ausmus is going to say, ‘[expletive]’ to one of my players?” Girardi said. “I mean, come on, Brad. What is that?”
Ausmus was not asked about it after the game and Gardner demurred when asked his account.
“We’ll just leave that on the field,” said Gardner, who celebrated a memorable 34th birthday Thursday. “A lot of tempers flying in all different directions today, and we’re ready to get out of town.”