Remember that time the Yankees were rained out in Detroit?
Flash back to April 10, 2016.
Ah yes, they were a 3-2 team that was full of hope and backed by the comfort of time. Entering the make-up game at 24-28 on Thursday, however, the team took the field with a heightened sense of urgency.
If any man was on the hottest of seats and under the finest of microscopes, it was major league’s worst statistical pitcher, Michael Pineda. Dragging around a 2-6 record and a 6.92 ERA, the 27-year-old theoretical No. 2 starter was pitching for his job as much as he was for the win.
Pineda’s control and the Yankees’ offense had a commonality during the 1st inning: both were temporarily missing.
A 1-2-3 top half in just eight pitches from Tigers’ starter, Matt Boyd, wasn’t an achievable feat for Pineda come his turn.
A one-out double and single already had Yankees fans’ stomachs in knots at the thought of an early deficit, but Big Mike got the ground ball he needed for a monumental 4-6-3 double play–turned by Rob Refsnyder at second and Starlin Castro as the shortstop.
Alex Rodriguez made a bid for his seventh home run of the season, smacking a second-inning laser to the left-field warning track. However, the ball found the glove of Justin Upton and hopes of the early go-ahead run died with an echoing pop.
Predictably, but almost undeservedly, Pineda would be the first to blink. With a runner on third base and one out in the 4th, the pitcher battled fiercely with a drawn-in infield, collecting the second out via strikeout on impressive sliders to Nick Castellanos.
But a bloop single to right field would put the Yankees under, 1-0. In a critical–but undoubtedly true–statement, if it was anyone other than the immobile Carlos Beltran in that position, that fly ball would’ve been the inning-ending rally killer.
The Yankees, by the way, still hadn’t had a baserunner.
Boyd continued breezing through the corpses with bats, but a two-out walk to Chase Headley broke up the perfecto in the 5th. A one-hop ground out kept the no-no in tact, however, with Boyd not breaking much of a sweat at just 52 pitches.
Refsnyder flared a hustle double to center field to break up the no-hitter in the 6th, and a fly ball advanced him to third base with one out. Jacoby Ellsbury would send him home on a sacrifice fly to center and tie the game, making for the Yankees’ first run since Tuesday, May 31.
Pineda exited the ballgame with a runner on first and two outs in the 6th. For a man with his job on the line and a one-run margin for error, he pitched as well as anyone could’ve expected.
Final line on Pineda: 5.2 IP, 7 H, 0 BB, 1 ER, 8 Ks
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Pineda was replaced by Dellin Betances, who shut the inning down with a bang-bang, ground-ball out to Castro at short.
Back-to-back singles from Rodriguez and Headley had the Bombers in business to start the 7th. With one out, Refsnyder came through again with his second hit of the night; this one gave the Yankees a 2-1 lead.
Ellsbury continued the barrage with a bases-clearing triple, completing the four-spot that the offensively woeful team desperately needed.
The Tigers picked up another run in their half of the 7th, bringing the game within three, 5-2, and further necessitating Girardi to reveal the two remaining heads of his bullpen beast, Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman.
Like Betances, Miller surrendered a rare run, which would have been two if Didi Gregorius–freshly entered into the ballgame for defense–didn’t rifle an on-target throw to nail Upton at the plate and end the inning.
The Tigers challenged the play, but the call was confirmed. Instead of being the fourth run of the game, Upton was tagged out in time by Romine.
The Yankees bullpen continued to keep fans emotionally invested in the 9th. Chapman allowed his first two hitters to reach base on a single and a walk. Cameron Maybin then lobbed a bunt in front of Headley and beat it out, juicing the bases with no one out.
A well-executed, off-balance double play scored the Tigers fourth run, bringing the game within one and racking up two outs, while also moving the remaining runner to third.
It was a power-versus-power match-up between Chapman and Miguel Cabrera in the final at-bat of the game, and a first-pitch ground out allowed the Yankees to squeak by with their 25th win of the season.
The final score was 5-4.
Up next, the Yankees head to Baltimore on Friday and, weather permitting, begin their final road series before returning to the Bronx for a seven-game homestand. Nathan Eovaldi (6-2, 3.71) and Chris Tillman (7-1, 2.92) will be on the rubber at 7:05 PM ET.