New York — The Tigers lost 47 games by two runs or fewer last season. They were 26-55 on the road.
So is this some kind of parallel universe we're in here early in 2019?
The Tigers are coming home after winning four of seven on the road. And, after their 2-1, series-clinching victory against the Yankees Wednesday, all four wins have been by a margin of two runs or fewer.
"I kind of like what we're doing," said veteran Gordon Beckham, whose solo home run into the seats in right-center field leading off the eighth provided the winning margin. "They told me last year we had a lot of trouble in one-run games. So I love the fact that we're finding a way to eke out some those wins.
"That's the sign of a good team. We have a lot of young guys in here, but we also have some veteran guys. The fact that we're gaining confidence that we can win these close games is huge."
Beckham, who beat long odds this spring to win a spot on the Tigers roster, lined a 94-mph fastball from reliever Chad Green into the stands. It was his first home run in the big leagues since Aug. 28, 2016.
"I took a pitch just off the plate away and I was kind of looking for a similar pitch," he said. "I got it, just a little higher and I got enough of it to get it out of here. I hit it all right, good swing, good approach and the pitch came into my approach."
Here's what's impressive about the Tigers' start — they are doing it with minimal offense. Beckham's blast was their third and final hit of the day.
"I know the hitters aren't happy with their production right now," said Shane Greene, who pitched a clean ninth inning to earn his fourth save. "But if we're winning games right now, watch out when they get hot."
The Tigers other run came without the benefit of a hit. Nick Castellanos, who has hit safely in all seven games this season, walked, stole second and kept going to third when Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez’s throw went into center field.
He would score on Christin Stewart's wind-blown fly ball to medium depth right field. Castellanos aggressively challenged and beat a strong throw by Aaron Judge.
"Dangerous, but good," Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. "We all wanted him to go."
The Tigers are the only team in the American League to score three runs or fewer in six of seven games. Coming into play Wednesday, their 10 runs ranked last in the American League, as did their .119 average with runners in scoring position (5 for 42).
Their 71 strikeouts were third-most and only the Indians had a worse team batting average than their .169 mark. Arizona pitcher Zach Greinke started the day with more home runs (two) than the Tigers collective (one) — prior to Beckham's winner.
"Obviously, the pitching staff is carrying us right now," Beckham said. "Which is a really good thing. Hopefully when we get hot, we can carry them for a bit. We are doing what we need to do to win ballgames. That's the most important thing."
As much as the Tigers offense is grinding, the starting rotation has been oppressive. Coming into Wednesday's game opponents were hitting .175 against them — third-lowest in the American League. The Tigers’ starters ranked fourth in ERA (2.27), WHIP (0.87) and strikeouts (35).
And Matthew Boyd made all those numbers a little better. He allowed just one run and struck out a career-best 13 against the Yankees in 6 1/3 innings. The 13 strikeouts were the most by a Tigers pitcher since Max Scherzer fanned 14 in August 2014.
Boyd posted 10 strikeouts in five innings in his first start, becoming the first Tigers pitcher since 1908 to start the season with double-digit strikeout games.
"It just happens," Boyd said. "You can't dictate if the guy is going to put a bat on the ball or not. Once it leaves my hand, it's out of my control."
The 4:05 p.m. start time didn't help the hitters. Shadows between the mound and the plate limited visibility most of the day. But, shadows or no shadows, Boyd's slider was menacing.
"It was good today," he said. "You find out what works in a game and just attack with that."
Boyd had career-most 26 swings and misses on his 98 pitches, 13 of those with his slider. He also got six called strikes with the slider. Only three of 41 sliders he threw were put in play, according to Statcast.
"He had all his stuff going and he kept them off-balance," Gardenhire said. "You use what you can as a pitcher and when it's hard to see spin, you keep spinning it. He had a good one today."
Like his first start, he only had one rocky inning. DJ LeMahieu (Birmingham Brother Rice) hit a 1-2 slider for a double with one out in the third inning and he scored on a single by Judge. With two outs, Boyd walked Gary Sanchez and then got a break.
Gleyber Torres smacked a ball up the middle, which would have been an RBI single, except it hit Judge in the leg. Judge was ruled out, inning over.
Boyd was asked if these seven games can set a tone, even this early in a season.
"Yeah, it sets a tone," he said. "You don't just disregard some stuff because it's early. We came out here, tough place to play against one of the best teams in the league last few years — it's big to take two out of three. And we fought every step of the way.
"It takes a team to win and that's what we did today."