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New York — What exactly the Yankees were expecting this weekend at their home ballpark is easily answered.

A romp against one of the worst teams in baseball, the Tigers of Detroit.

That's because almost everyone expected it, at least this side of the Tigers, who have managed to harass and irritate one of baseball's elite teams, as happened again Saturday before Detroit lost another tight one to its Bronx hosts, 2-1.

BOX SCORE: Yankees 2, Tigers 1

"Every single game, we've been in it," said Nick Castellanos after the Tigers and Yankees had teamed on another tight one where numbers leaned toward the unusual, if not weird.

As examples:

The Yankees got two hits on the day — two — but scored twice, thanks to one of those hits being a two-run homer in the fifth from Gleyber Torres.

The Tigers got nine hits but managed only one run, in the first inning on three singles and Victor Martinez's sacrifice fly.

The bigger story was Tigers starter Daniel Norris, who was pitching in a Detroit uniform for the first time since April and who, apart from a couple of slips in the fifth inning, was dazzling before he left with a left-calf cramp in the fifth.

Norris struck out seven through four perfect innings.

Then, the cramp. 

Norris' perfect game ended when he walked leadoff batter Miguel Andujar on four pitches leading off the fifth. Two batters later, Torres slammed his homer.    

Luke Voit followed. Norris on back-to-back pitches "jumped," in manager Ron Gardenhire's parlance, and Norris was pulled with a 2-2 count on Voit.

"He tried to stay, but we had to get him out of there," Gardenhire said, explaining that a pitcher coming off a four-month recovery from groin surgery wasn't going to be risked.

"He said he was fine. But we've got to protect him."

More: Tigers will wait on Toledo before adding extra September help

Norris said he first noticed the cramp in the second inning, although it was brushed off. He was fine in the third, and so were his pitches: fastball at 92, curveball, slider, change-up, all of which had the swashbuckling Yankees batters missing or handcuffed. 

During the fourth inning, the calf began to tighten. During warm-ups in the fifth, it turned more serious. Four batters later, he was gone.

"Definitely a bit frustrating," said Norris, who had not pitched in a big-league game since April 29 at Baltimore. "All the work in rehab, then coming out."

Norris said his troublesome groin, which was surgically repaired this spring, had nothing to do with Saturday's exit.

"My groin felt good," he said, searching for an answer for why his left calf went into spasms. 

He theorized dehydration was behind it, but that made little sense, Norris said, when he was "crushing water" and downing electrolytes, and eating bananas galore during Saturday's game.

"Hard to say," said a 25-year-old, left-handed talent who is as tired as the Tigers and their fans of Norris fighting so many ailments and ditch-drives. 

But his pitches Saturday were sharp. They ranged from his fastball at 92, to a curveball at 75, and in between a series of digging sliders that had the Yankees spinning.

Gardenhire was careful to say in fairness to the Yankees' slammers that shadows were bad Saturday and might have had their annual September late-afternoon influence. But he took nothing from his starter.

"He was good," Gardenhire said. "The ball was really jumping."

Gardenhire wasn't as pleased with his Tigers hitters Saturday. For several reasons.

Yes, they scored a quick run against the Yankees and starter Masahiro Tanaka in the first on three consecutive singles and Martinez's sacrifice fly to left.

But that was it when Niko Goodrum struck out and Ronny Rodriguez flew out.

In the fourth, Goodrum spanked a leadoff single and Rodriguez bunted him to second. The next two batters, Grayson Greiner and JaCoby Jones, expired on a ground out and a strikeout.

Then there was the seventh, when Gardenhire felt like drinking a fifth.

Greiner led off with a double to right. He cruised to third on Jones' single, and after Jones stole second, the Tigers were a single from taking yet another lead against the Yanks.

The Tigers didn't score. And not only because Tanaka was throwing an evil collection of fastballs, sliders, and split-finger daggers.

"We had high-anxiety at-bats," Gardenhire said. "You've still got to stay within yourself. Hit a ball up the middle, or shoot a ball the other way."

Dawel Lugo tried the latter but was put away on a grounder, unassisted, to Voit at first as Greiner held at third.

The next two batters were Tanaka's to torture. Mikie Mahtook and Jim Adduci each went down on swinging third strikes against Tanaka's splitter. 

"It's a hard game," said Castellanos, who had a pair of singles Saturday but sympathized with any hitter exposed to Tanaka's signature drop-dead out-pitch.

The Tigers bullpen, as has been its habit, did slick work after Norris departed.

Drew VerHagen, Buck Farmer, Daniel Stumpf and Victor Alcantara combined to do just as Norris did: allow a single Yankees hit.

Two hits. Two runs. Nine innings.

Not much, but enough to beat those pain-in-the-neck visitors from Motown who weren't good enough Saturday to offer the Yankees much more than another scare.

lynn.henning@detroitnews.com

twitter.com/Lynn_Henning

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