Detroit — If you like pitching and defense and getting to bed before the 11 o'clock news, Monday's game definitely was for you.
The Yankees, particularly left fielder Brett Gardner and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury, made one spectacular play after another in the field to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard for most of the ballgame.
But in the seventh inning, two plays decided the game — and the Yankees, this time, didn't come up with the web gems as Detroit went on to win, 2-1, at Comerica Park.
The most questioned play came with two out and runners on second and first. The term "runner" is used loosely for the guy at second base, Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez, who never has been fast, and now is even slower because of a nagging knee.
Yoenis Cespedes drilled a CC Sabathia pitch up the middle, where Ellsbury raced in and snagged the single and then was faced with a split-second decision: Try to make the throw home on Martinez, or take the sure, inning-ending out when J.D. Martinez, purposely to draw a throw from Ellsbury, headed for third base.
Ellsbury opted to get J.D. Martinez, Victor Martinez scored the go-ahead run and that was that.
Both Ellsbury and manager Joe Girardi defended the decision.
"I just didn't think I had a shot at him," said Ellsbury, who also hit into a pivotal, inning-ending double play in the eighth inning. "If there was one out, definitely. But with two outs, I didn't think I had a shot at him.
"By the time I'm touching the ball, I don't know exactly where he's at. He's getting a big secondary lead, going on contact, that's the reason he scores."
It appeared Victor Martinez was about to round third base by the time Ellsbury picked up the ball.
That's why J.D. Martinez rounded second — to get in the rundown, and thus allow Victor Martinez to score. It worked.
There's also this: There were gobs of people on the field Monday who have a better arm than Ellsbury, and probably even some in the stands.
"I don't think he would've had a shot at him at home," Girardi said. "I think Ells took the out to try to end the inning."
The Yankees definitely know the situation with Martinez's knee. His laboring running was in their pre-series scouting report.
But, still, they're not looking back.
"I don't think so," Girardi said, when asked, specifically, if the Martinez injury could've made him an out at home. "It's hard to say. I don't think so."
The batter before Cespedes, J.D. Martinez, drove in the tying run, when he ripped a Sabathia change-up that was up in the zone to the hole between short and third.
Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorius got to the ball and left his feet, but the ball went off his glove and into left field, scoring Rajai Davis from second.
It would've been a spectacular play by Gregorius — after his counterpart, Jose Iglesias, had made the highlight of highlights the inning before.
"As a player, you want to make every play," Gregorius said. "For me, I want to make every play when I go out there. That's how I look at it."
J.D. Martinez was batting with two men on and two out because Girardi chose to intentionally walk Victor Martinez ahead of him.
Asked why, Girardi cited the great at-bats Victor Martinez has had off Sabathia, his former Indians teammate, over the years — including early in Monday's game. In the second inning, Gardner robbed Victor Martinez of extra bases, and in the fifth inning, Ellsbury did the same.
So Girardi had seen enough. He wanted to pitch to J.D. Martinez, which is no treat, either. It's basically a pick-your-poison proposition, one that didn't work.
"That lineup is tough," said Sabathia, who went the distance. "I came in after one inning and told Chris Young, 'That should be illegal.'
"Once you think it's done, they've got more hitters coming."