Detroit Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler (3) reacts after being tagged out trying to score against the New York Yankees during the sixth inning at Yankee Stadium.
NEW YORK — When Derek Jeter blasted a homer for his 3,000th hit four years ago, the Tigers were getting ready to play in Kansas City. After the homer, Justin Verlander ran into Jim Leyland’s office to talk about the moment.
On Friday night at Yankee Stadium, Verlander got to watch the same scenario again, only this time he played a part in the narrative, as Alex Rodriguez took Verlander deep in the bottom of the first to get his 3,000th hit.
“I wasn’t sure if he’d be swinging early or not,” said Verlander. “In retrospect, he was probably trying to get 3,000 out of the way. That’s a pitch that historically I know he likes. It was outside, but just a hair up.”
Rodriguez took advantage.
The Yankees star was gracious after the game, telling reporters that one of the highlights of his night was the hug he received from Miguel Cabrera after the home run. Rodriguez was also complimentary towards Verlander.
“We’ve had some epic battles over the years,” he said. “He’s won most of them.”
In fact, Verlander won the next three battles of the night. The last came when Verlander got Rodriguez to ground out in the bottom of the 7th.
It was the last batter he faced. Verlander gave up nine hits, allowed five runs, and twice watched helplessly as ground balls ricocheted off his foot and into no-man’s land for hits.
It was that kind of night, as the Tigers lost to the Yankees, 7-2, the team’s third straight loss. They fell to 34-33.
Still, Brad Ausmus saw a few things he liked, including the return of Victor Martinez after nearly a month-long absence.
“Victor looked much better swining the bat from the left side, which gives us hope,” said Ausmus.
“Despite the fact that his numbers won’t look as good, I thought his stuff looked much better than it was his last outing,” he said.
The former Cy Young winner may have given up three home runs, but also appeared solid at times, moving his fastball around the zone and keeping the team in the game until the seventh. He reached 95 mph, a couple miles per hour less than he’d showed in his rehab start in Toledo.
Before the game, Ausmus said he wanted to keep Verlander to 120 pitches, and when Verlander got Rodriguez to ground out in the seventh, he was at 117.
Getting to that number is good news for the Tigers. This was just Verlander’s second start after spending the first two months of the season on the disabled list.
Meanwhile, Martinez popped a single in the second inning in his first at-bat. He did this from the left side, a good sign considering he had struggled from that side of the plate because of his ailing knee.
Martinez finished 1-for-4, all from the left side. He admitted before the game it might take him a little while to get his timing back.
“It’s about repetition,” he said.
Did he feel more comfortable?
“Yeah,” he said.
Even with the Yankees’ home runs and the historic moment for Rodriguez, the Tigers had chances before the game got away in the seventh and eighth inning, the best coming in the sixth, after Ian Kinsler singled to lead off the inning.
Cabrera followed with an opposite-field single and Kinsler raced around second toward third. Yankees third baseman Chase Headley misplayed the throw from the right fielder and Kinsler took off for home.
The ball rolled to the dugout fence and bounced right back to his bare hand. He spun toward home and threw it high, but in time for John Ryan Murphy to apply the tag.
It was a risky move by Kinsler.
“If he had to do it again he wouldn’t,” said Ausmus.
The Tigers were down by two runs and would’ve had runners at the corners with no outs. Instead, Martinez followed with a pop up and J.D. Martinez grounded to short.
The Tigers didn’t threaten again.