August 4, 2014 at 1:00 am

Yankees 2, Tigers 1

Ezequiel Carrera's catch of the day can't save Tigers from loss to Yankees

New York — Hate to interrupt while you’re still excited about “the catch,” but there was a game to be won or lost on Monday night at Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees happened to win it 2-1.

And the Tigers lost it — the defeat going to Max Scherzer (13-4), his first since June 17.

It was the run Scherzer allowed an out after the spectacular play everyone’s talking about that proved to be the losing run for the Tigers.

But you won’t be seeing the way the Tigers lost being replayed a million times on ESPN. You will only see the catch that’s probably the best made by any Tiger this season — or for that matter, by any major league player.

Newcomer Ezequiel Carrera made it in center field — in his first start for the Tigers, no less.

Carrera is the speedy outfielder whose contract the Tigers purchased from Toledo when they traded Austin Jackson to Seattle.

Since the trade, Rajai Davis had started in center because the Tigers faced three left-handers in a row with Colorado at Comerica Park over the weekend — and with Carrera being a left-handed hitter.

But he was in the lineup at Yankee Stadium against Yankees right-hander Brandon McCarthy.

And he was playing center field.

In the third inning of a game that was scoreless at the time, the Yankees loaded the bases with no outs against Scherzer on three singles.

It looked like a big inning might be in the works, but you know how that can fizzle when Scherzer is on the mound. With strikeouts, he can extricate himself from any jam.

And while he wasn’t at his sharpest this time, Scherzer is still good, as you also know, when he is not at his best.

On a 1-0 pitch, Jacoby Ellsbury hit a blast to deep center that looked like it was going to clear the bases.

But it first had to carry beyond Carrera’s reach in center. Would it?

“I thought he was going to play it off the wall,” Ian Kinsler said.

Well, you’ve probably seen the replay by now, because far and wide it’s been hailed as possibly the best catch in the majors this season.

But the answer to the above question was that it wouldn’t — carry beyond Carrera’s reach, that is.

Not beyond his diving reach, his flying-through-the-air reach, or even his “I can’t extend my glove any farther than I am” reach.

And somehow he caught the ball.

“An unbelievable catch,” Kinsler said. “Unbelievable.”

“I just tried to stay aggressive,” Carrera said through an interpreter. “That helped me to make the play.

“The most important thing was to keep the ball secure in my glove.”

Instead of a three-run triple, or perhaps an inside-the-park grand slam, Ellsbury settled for a sacrifice fly that gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead.

Looking at the game as scientifically as he does, Scherzer thought Carrera had a chance at catching the ball. No one else commenting after the game thought he did, though.

“Typically when left-hand hitters (such as Ellsbury) go into that gap,” Scherzer said, “they’re hitting it with backspin and the ball hangs.

“I knew it would hang, giving a fast center fielder a chance to run it down. Thankfully, he had enough speed to make a play.

“What a play, what an absolute play. First start with us and he makes a play like that. I’m buying him dinner, lunch, whatever he wants.”

What proved costly, though — and Scherzer knew it — was that with two outs, runners at first and third, the Tigers didn’t shut down the inning.

On a 1-0 pitch, Brian McCann singled in Brett Gardner, who had hit the second of the three singles that loaded the bases for the Yankees.

“A change-up that kind of stayed up,” Scherzer said of the pitch. “That stung.”

The third single, by the way, was hit by retiring Derek Jeter, for whom this series is the last against the Tigers at Yankee Stadium.

Besides Carrera’s catch, the Tigers got another pair of fine plays from Kinsler, who’s been playing an outstanding second base all year.

Kinsler has made only three errors with the season 23 over — or to be more exact, one game more than 23 over. He’s certainly come a long way from being the second baseman who made 53 errors in his first three seasons with the Texas Rangers.

The Tigers needed runs, though, to take complete advantage of the sparkling defense they displayed — but runs were scarce.

The only one they eventually scored, in fact, was unearned.

With the help of Martin Prado’s poor throw to first with one out in the fifth, they capitalized, but shortstop Eugenio Suarez left with an injury while setting up the run.

Stealing second after reaching first on the error, Suarez suffered a sprained left knee and had to be replaced by Andrew Romine.

Of the extent of Suarez’s injury, manager Brad Ausmus said, “I think it will be more for more than a day.”

It was Romine who raced home on Kinsler’s single.

But that’s the only run the Tigers scored — so Carrera’s catch, as great as it as, couldn’t save them.

And didn’t.

tom.gage@detroitnews.com
twitter.com/Tom_Gage

Tigers center fielder Ezequiel Carrera makes a diving catch of Jacoby Ellsbury's third-inning fly ball Monday at Yankee Stadium. / Kathy Willens / Associated Press