DETROIT — The Yankees have teed off on bad pitching all season so a three-game series against the almost indescribably awful Tigers portended quite a few balls leaving the yard.
It played out exactly that way Tuesday night as the Yankees clubbed six homers at Comerica Park. However, Jordy Mercer’s one-out single in the bottom of the ninth off Chance Adams gave the Tigers a 12-11 victory.
“Anytime you score that many runs, you expect to win the ballgame,” said Brett Gardner, who hit two of the six homers. “But over the course of the season you lose games like this.”
The Yankees (95-51) hiked their season homer total to an MLB-best 276, tying them with the Twins, who earlier this season broke the single-season homer record of 267 set by the 2018 Yankees.
Gardner and Didi Gregorius both homered twice and Edwin Encarnacion and Gleyber Torres each added one on a night the Yankees were outhit 16-11. Gardner upped his homer total to a career-best 23, Gregorius upped his to 16, Encarnacion notched No. 33 and Torres went to a team-best 36. “We let them down, there’s no way around it,” Nestor Cortes Jr. said of the pitching staff collectively. “When a team scores 11 runs, you’re supposed to win a game.”
Cortes allowed four runs (two earned) and six hits over 2 1⁄3 innings.
Aaron Boone, after his team took three of four in a grueling weekend wraparound series at Fenway Park against the Red Sox, went with an assembly line of pitchers not likely to see the light of day in the postseason and they were treated accordingly as the Tigers, who have the majors’ worst record (43-100), fought back from a 6-0 deficit after two innings, aided by some sloppy Yankees play in the field and sloppiness on the mound.
“Not our best game tonight,” Boone said.
But after the second of Gregorius’ homers, a shot off righty Daniel Stumpf in the seventh that gave the Yankees an 11-10 lead — which followed Encarnacion’s game-tying two-run homer — Boone brought in some of his big guns.
But Adam Ottavino couldn’t hold Detroit down, allowing a two-out RBI single in the bottom of the seventh that made it 11-11. Zack Britton pitched a perfect eighth and Boone, without Tommy Kahnle who has been dealing with right wrist tendinitis — he’s expected to be available Wednesday —, who was only going to pitch Aroldis Chapman in a save situation, went with Adams in the ninth.
Four pitches in, the Yankees had the lead when Gardner sent a 2-and-1 fastball by Edwin Jackson to right for his 22nd homer that established a new single-season career high for the 36-year-old.
The Yankees tagged Jackson for four more runs in the second. Gio Urshela led off with a double and Mike Ford singled to left for an RBI single. Clint Frazier singled and Tyler Wade followed with his first career triple, driving one off the top of the wall in right-center, one of the deepest parts of the ballpark. After Torres grounded out,Gardner hit his second home run of the night to make it 6-0. But a Torres error on a sure double play ball helped the Tigers tie it in a six-run third, setting up a wild back-and-forth before Mercer’s walk-off.
“You’re going to lose a game and it has nothing to do with taking a team lightly, that doesn’t happen,” Boone said. “We didn’t play well tonight and we got beat.”