The Yankees struck out 18 times and lost to the Tigers on Wednesday, 2-1, to finish their season-opening homestand at 2-4. That’s against the Orioles and Tigers, teams who lost a combined 213 games last season.
And that’s not even the worst of it.
The snakebit Yankees lost yet another player to injury. Shortstop Troy Tulowitzki left after three innings with a Grade 1 (lowest severity) left calf strain. Tulowitzki, the five-time All-Star who came back this year after missing a year and a half because of surgery on both heels, will “almost certainly” be placed on the injured list Thursday, manager Aaron Boone said.
If so, Tulowitzki will become the 11th Yankee to go on the IL and the third this week, joining Miguel Andujar and Giancarlo Stanton. They joined Aaron Hicks, Luis Severino and Dellin Betances as key players who have gotten hurt since spring training opened.
“Definitely haven’t started out this first week how we would have hoped,” Brett Gardner said. “But it’s still very, very early. We’ve got a lot of talented guys in this room. We’ve had to deal with a lot of injuries here early on. It’s not ideal, but our depth obviously is going to be tested. I’m confident that we’ve got the guys to step up and the job done.”
Gordon Beckham broke a 1-1 tie with an eighth-inning home run off Chad Green for Detroit, which improved to 4-3 despite scoring 12 runs in seven games.
The Yankees took a 1-0 lead in the second inning, when DJ LeMahieu doubled and scored on Aaron Judge’s single to right against lefthander Matthew Boyd, who struck out 13 in 6 1/3 innings.
Jonathan Loaisiga, who was called up before the game, started for the Yankees and allowed one run and one hit in four innings. The Tigers scored an earned run in the fourth with the help of three walks and the fourth throwing error in five games by catcher Gary Sanchez.
Nicholas Castellanos walked to open the inning and stole second as Miguel Cabrera struck out. Sanchez’s throw sailed to the right of second base and into centerfield as Castellanos took second. He scored three batters later on Christin Stewart’s sacrifice fly to right.
The 18 strikeouts were a Yankees record for a nine-inning game. They struck out 17 times in a nine-inning game four times.
“The time of day [4 p.m. start] makes it a little challenging seeing,” Boone said. “They certainly pitched us tough, but we’ve got to get better at controlling the strike zone . . . Pitching’s been real good, but we’ve got to step it up offensively.”
Every Yankee who got a plate appearance struck out at least once with the exception of Tulowitzki, who popped to second in the second inning. Tulowitzki is 2-for-11 with a home run in five games.
Tulowitzki was replaced at short by Gleyber Torres, who moved over from second. Tyler Wade, who was called up when Andujar went on the injured list, entered the game at second.
The Yankees have limited options to replace Tulowitzki on the roster. The only infielder at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre who is on the 40-man roster is Thairo Estrada, who will be recalled Thursday, a source said. Estrada, 23, is a highly regarded prospect, but he has played only eight games above Double-A after he was shot in the leg in January 2018 in his native Venezuela. Scranton opens its season Thursday at Buffalo.
The Yankees will be in Baltimore on Thursday for the Orioles’ home opener. The lineup they field will be a shell of the one they envisioned when spring training began.
“We’ve got a great lineup,” Judge said.
Well, they did. On Wednesday, the Yankees were left to grasp at straws, such as Judge blaming himself for the loss because, while running between second and third, he was hit in the foot by Torres’ hot shot for the final out of the third inning.
“That cost us the game right there,” Judge said, which, if true, is a really bad sign for the Yankees.
Then there was Boone, who waited until there were two outs in the eighth before using Gardner to run for Luke Voit at first even though Voit had walked to open the inning. Boone said he held back Gardner because he might have wanted to use him as a pinch hitter. That’s how thin the Yankees’ bench is.
Gardner was thrown out stealing to end the inning.
Every Yankee who came to the plate, with the exception of Troy Tulowitzki — the shortstop left after one AB with a calf injury — struck out at least once in Wednesday’s loss to the Tigers:
DJ LeMahieu 2
Aaron Judge 1
Luke Voit 2
Gary Sanchez 2
Gleyber Torres 3
Greg Bird 2
Clint Frazier 2
Tyler Wade 1
Mike Tauchman 3