'That wasn't fun': Yankees sweep doubleheader, aid Tigers' bid for top draft pick
Detroit — Moving on, finally here comes a series that actually matters for the Detroit Tigers.
Let's bring on the Baltimore Orioles for what could be described, in homage to those old Gus Mackers, as the Toilet Bowl.
The Tigers were swept in Thursday's straight doubleheader by the Yankees at Comerica Park, including 6-4 in the chilly, mist-filled (or "mizzle," as Ron Gardenhire called it) nightcap which was almost all Yankees, starting with Aaron Judge launching a home run to right field two batters into the first inning.
The Tigers lost the first game, 10-4.
"That wasn't fun," Gardenhire said, speaking of the weather and the long day, as much as the losses. "We played, we had chances.
"But they've got some young, big, strong boys over there."
The Yankees hit four home runs on the day — the last one being Gio Urshela's pinch-hit blast in the ninth inning — and 10 in the series, meaning Tigers pitchers have allowed 129 home runs at Comerica Park in 2019. (The Tigers have hit 56.) Prior to this season, the record for homers allowed by Tigers pitchers at Comerica Park was 108, in 2017. Before that, 107 in 2016. Before that, 95 in 2003 and 2004.
With the losses, the Tigers now move four games "in front" of the Orioles for the No. 1 overall pick in next June's draft — putting them in prime position to land the consensus top player, Arizona State slugging first baseman Spencer Torkelson.
The worst record in baseball gets the No. 1 draft pick.
The Tigers just had the first pick in 2018, and took right-hander Casey Mize from Auburn.
Before that, Detroit only had secured the top pick once, taking right-hander Matt Anderson out of Rice in 1997.
Coming up Friday through Monday at Comerica Park is the second and final series of the year between baseball's worst teams, the Tigers and Orioles.
Most experts had the Orioles being easily the worst team in 2019, but the Tigers are 43-102 entering the series. The Orioles were 47-98 entering Thursday's home game against the Los Angeles Dodgers.
In their earlier series, the Tigers took two out of three in Baltimore in late May.
Given the Tigers have spent all of 2019 selling fans on hope and the future, you'll forgive us that we haven't gotten to the game details yet.
Speaking of which, as for Thursday's nightcap, played in front of the heavy-minority share of the day's 17,807 tickets sold, Spencer Turnbull had some ups (eight strikeouts) and downs (four runs in five innings) — which long has been the story of his season.
That said, on a whole, there certainly was improvement, especially on the slider.
"Better than I have, for a while," Turnbull said.
After Brother Rice alumnus — and possible American League batting champ — DJ LeMahieu led off the game with a sharp single (he was 3-for-5, and has 92 RBIs), Judge took Turnbull out to right field. It was met with a smattering of applause from a very tiny crowd, almost all of which sounded like Yankees fans.
LeMahieu's RBI double made it 3-0 in the second.
"The first inning was a little rough," said Turnbull, "but I stuck with it."
Brandon Dixon pulled the Tigers within 3-2 with his one-out, two-run double in the fourth, ending the day for the retiring CC Sabathia, who finished 21-15 with a 4.34 ERA in 45 career appearances, including two in the postseason, against the Tigers. He also passed Lansing's John Smoltz for 16th on MLB's strikeout list, and has 3,087.
The Tigers did practically zip — at least until late — against the Yankees bullpen, Domingo German (18-4) sitting down 12 of the first 13 he faced in relief of Sabathia, including striking out the side in the fifth inning.
The Yankees made it 4-2 earlier in the fifth on an RBI single by Didi Gregorius.
One batter later, that was the end of the day for Turnbull (3-15). He hasn't had a win since May 31; the Tigers are 2-17 in his last 19 starts, after they won five of his first eight.
"He probably sees it," Gardnehire said of that particular set of statistics, before adding Turnbull's psyche, sometimes a sore spot, was on point Thursday. "The smart ones don't read it."
It became 6-2 in the ninth when Urshela sent Gregory Soto's 1-2 offering a long way over the fence in left-center. Soto faced three batters, and didn't retire any of them, requiring a ninth-inning pitching change to the chagrin of the hundreds of fans remaining at Comerica Park.
The Tigers made it 6-3 on Grayson Greiner's stand-up RBI triple — his first career triple — in the ninth, before Aroldis Chapman was summoned. He allowed an RBI infield single to John Hicks, before striking out Travis Demeritte and getting Victor Reyes to ground out for his 37th save of the season. For perspective, the Tigers, again, have 43 wins.
Yankees catcher Gary Sanchez left Game 2 with left groin tightness, after fellow slugger Edwin Encarnacion left the first game with a left oblique strain, not great news for the runaway AL East champs who have little to play for before the postseason. Meanwhile, Brett Gardner might have wished he'd left the second game — he had four strikeouts in four at-bats, by three different Tigers pitchers. No word on any damage to the roof of the visitor's dugout.
With the losses, the Tigers, at 102, have matched the 1975 Tigers for sixth-most in a season. Next on the list is the 1989 ball club, which had 103. That was a season so bad, manager Sparky Anderson had to take a month-long mental break.
These Tigers will have to wait three more weeks.