New York — Playing the Yankees in the Bronx is never recommended, particularly when a visiting team arrives towing a five-game losing skid.
The Tigers, though, acted Thursday as if the Yankees were to be treated as a chew toy as they whacked their way into three different leads, fell behind, then won it with a two-homer burst in the ninth to beat the Bronx's best, 8-7, at Yankee Stadium.
The Tigers cracked five home runs on the night, two of them from Victor Martinez, the last of which was a two-run shot in the ninth that tied the game, 7-7. Niko Goodrum's follow-up blast into the right-field upper deck was the winner.
"Victor with some big hits, and nothing bigger than that," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said of Martinez's blast on a 99-mph fastball against Yankees reliever Dellin Betances.
"I think he was ready for it," Gardenhire said of Martinez's blow, which came on a 2-2 pitch. "He knows he's winding down. This is a huge moment for him."
Martinez supposedly is four months from 40 and is retiring at the end of this season. He is not leaving quietly.
His pair of two-run pokes Thursday made him the Tigers' career leader in RBIs by a switch-hitter. He has 533, two more than were amassed by the late, great Billy Rogell.
He's enjoying the last act.
"Especially when I can do something to help the team," he said afterward in the Tigers clubhouse, which, for a change, had music thumping as the Tigers had what has become a rare victory party.
"I'm just glad he threw it down," Martinez said of Betances' heater that he hit for his sixth homer of 2018.
The game was 7-7 after Martinez crossed home plate and gave way to Goodrum, who had earlier swatted three singles, two of them infield hits he earned with his feet.
Betances threw a 1-1 knuckle-curve that Goodrum drove on a long, high arc into the upper deck in right. It was 8-7, Tigers, and it stayed that way after Shane Greene got a neat 1-2-3 save in the ninth.
Jeimer Candelario and Ronny Rodriguez also clubbed homers Thursday as the Tigers popped the princely Yankees, which wasn't what most of a crowd of 37,195 had quite expected.
Not after, as Gardenhire said, "We had two of our worst games in Kansas City (Tuesday and Wednesday). This was a nice comeback."
So much for cynical thoughts, popular in some corners, that the Tigers were "tanking" as they close their 2018 calendar.
"Good atmosphere — great atmosphere," Gardenhire said of Thursday's dugout ambiance. "Our guys were really getting into it."
The Tigers finished with 13 hits, one of which was a double from Dawel Lugo. It was Lugo's first big-league hit after he was shipped Thursday to New York from Triple-A Toledo to replace shortstop Jose Iglesias, who is on the 10-day disabled list with a strained abdomen.
The Yankees, who themselves slammed three home runs Thursday, had led 7-5 heading into the ninth after Luke Voit dropped a two-run bomb to center in the seventh against Victor Alcantara.
Alcantara was Detroit's fourth pitcher of the evening and third reliever after Francisco Liriano, who might have been making his final Tigers' appearance, lasted 4⅓ innings, allowing seven hits, five runs (four earned), with a pair of strikeouts and two walks.
Liriano has been a potential Tigers trade piece and has until midnight Friday to be dealt to a team that might care to add him as a potentially handy piece in a contender's bullpen.
It is known the Tigers have had conversations about Liriano and that much depended upon his performance Thursday night.
For a team viewing him as a short-inning answer, Liriano probably helped himself.
He sparkled in the first and second, throwing 25 pitches, allowing only a bloop single, striking out a batter, and getting four outs on ground balls.
He began to fade in the third when the Yankees took a 2-1 lead. Aaron Hicks singled and Giancarlo Stanton swatted an outer-plate change-up from Liriano into the pavilion in right field for his 300th career homer.
Rodriguez hit his third homer of 2018 in the fourth, a searing liner beyond the left-center field fence to make it, 3-2, Detroit.
Liriano gave up another two-run missile in the fourth when Gleyber Torres nearly reached the stratosphere with a drive that finally tumbled beyond the center-field fence to put the Yankees up, 4-3.
Martinez followed in the fifth with a two-run drive to right, and the Tigers were back on top, 5-4.
Liriano was gone after a one-out single and walk in the fifth, replaced by Drew VerHagen, who allowed the tying run when Candelario fielded Miguel Andujar's tough-shot grounder at third but threw wildly to first.
Daniel Stumpf pitched one-third of an inning of nifty relief in the sixth, which led to Alcantara arriving for the seventh.
He got Hicks on a fly to right, was tagged for a scalding double down the third-base line by Stanton, then struck out Andujar, all before Luke Voit sent a first-pitch fastball past the center-field barrier for a 7-5 Yankees lead.
Betances showed up for the ninth and the Tigers were happy to see him, or so it appeared.
Nick Castellanos drew a one-out walk, which set up Martinez for another episode in the long-running series about a man who is supposed to be ancient and creaky and who suddenly is swinging the bat as if he's a kid.
"I'm absolutely having a blast this year," Martinez said, gesturing to the Tigers' baby-faced players who steadily have filled the clubhouse. "These guys, they make me feel a little young."