The Tigers, with all the firepower in their lineup, were beaten Thursday afternoon by a balk and a hard-hit ground ball that Miguel Cabrera didn't boot, but didn't field cleanly, either.
The Yankees got three hits, and won 2-1.
"What are you saying, that the Yankees pitching is no good?" joked Cabrera when asked if he was surprised the offense has been so quiet lately. "You are saying that, not me. I mean, it's tough when you don't score runs. We've got to keep working."
The Yankees pitching was exceptional Thursday. Masahiro Tanaka allowed just three doubles, two by J.D. Martinez, in 6.1 innings. The back end of their bullpen was stingier — Justin Wilson, Dellin Betances and former Tiger Andrew Miller got the last eight outs of the game without as much as a hard-hit ball.
"At some point, you have to give pitchers some credit," manager Brad Ausmus said. "It's not just the hitter's fault every time they make an out. Hitting is a hard thing to do. That being said, we have to score more than one run. If we score one run on a daily basis, that's a problem."
It was 33 degrees at game time Thursday — not exactly conducive to hitting a baseball.
"No excuses for anything about the weather," Victor Martinez said. "They played in it. That have to hit and play defense in the same weather. The weather did not change for them."
No, and the Yankes didn't hit much against starter Anibal Sanchez, either. In fact Sanchez allowed just one hit and struck out eight in 6.1 innings.
"At the end you have to give a lot of credit to Tanaka," said Sanchez. "He threw a great ballgame, too. I did my job. I needed to keep the score right there. We scored first and I tried to keep it that way, but they got one run by a balk."
Yankees leadoff hitter Jacoby Ellsbury scored both Yankees runs. He led off the sixth with a walk, stole second and went to third on a groundout to first.
Sanchez looked to be on his way out of the jam after he struck out Carlos Beltran (for the third time) with a wicked slider.
But, with Brian McCann up, Sanchez balked allowing Ellsbury to score. Sanchez stopped his wind-up when Ellsbury bluffed down the line. No call was made immediately. It was only after Chase Headley, who was on deck, and third-base coach Joe Espada protested that third-base ump Gerry Davis called the balk.
"Initially I thought Sanchy had stepped off with his right foot, but after seeing the replay, he balked," said Ausmus, who was ejected after arguing the call. "There was a little bit of a delay before the call was made, but that doesn't matter.
"Gerry got it right."
The winning run came in the eighth off left-handed reliever Tom Gorzelanny. Again it was Ellsbury causing the problems. He spanked a 0-2 hanging breaking ball into left center for a double and, after Beltran was walked intentionally, he scored on a one-out grounder to first by McCann.
Had Cabrera been able to field it cleanly, he had his choice of throwing home to get Ellsbury, or throwing to second to start a possible inning-ending double play. But the ball hit off his glove and rolled to Ian Kinsler, who threw back to Cabrera to get the out.
That allowed Ellsbury to chug home with the winning run.
The Tigers, other than the one run in the first (double by Anthony Gose, sacrifice fly by Victor Martinez), had one other quality scoring chance. It came in the seventh. J.D. Martinez, who doubled off Tanaka in fourth, doubled again with one out in the seventh. Yoenis Cespedes walked, which ended Tanaka's day.
Wilson, a left-hander, was summoned. The Tigers countered, sending right-handed hitting James McCann to hit for Alex Avila. McCann pulled a shot down the thir -base line that Headley snagged on one knee. He threw to second to force Cespedes.
With runners on first and third, the Yankees brought in the right-handed Betances, who ended the threat getting Nick Castellanos to pop to first.
"We had our opportunities today," Avila said. "We didn't get beat by a balk. Give them credit, they pitched very well against us."