Robbie hits 1st walk-off HR ... off old roomie!

May 29th, 2021

was extremely familiar with the pitcher standing just over 60 feet in front of him. It caused him to smirk even more as his first career walk-off homer gave the Tigers a thrilling 3-2 victory in 10 innings over the New York Yankees at Comerica Park on Friday night.

The 366-foot two-run homer to left field was the result of Grossman facing Yankees left-handed reliever Justin Wilson many times beforehand. At the Major League level, Grossman was 0-for-2 against the southpaw with one strikeout before the game-changing at-bat. But during their days together in the Pirates’ organization, Grossman faced him many times.

“I know Justin, he was my first roommate in pro ball. I’ve faced him before, I know what he’s got,” Grossman said. “I kept telling myself that we're just one swing away from winning this game, no matter what. And I got a pitch to hit and luckily I got enough of it and it went into the stands. I couldn't be happier to have my first walk-off home run.”

Grossman knew how to read his former teammate perfectly as Wilson switched between a slide step and his regular leg kick. It prepared him for the last pitch Wilson tossed.

“I’m just lucky enough I got started early enough,” Grossman said. “He threw me a pitch to hit and I got it all.”

The 93.2 mph fastball was set for the upper inside corner of the zone against Grossman, but Wilson was unable to locate it and left it over the plate for his former roommate to power Detroit to its 20th win of the season.

During the various postgame Zooms, it was evident that the Tigers were grateful their walk-off hero chose to call Detroit home during the offseason, as he’s been a stabilizing presence in the leadoff spot.

“It means a lot to us,” Tigers manager A.J. Hinch said. “I think what he's doing on the field -- we get to see and everybody gets to see how he prepares -- is very impressive, how he's evolved as a player. It's very personal for me, because I saw him as a young player and I've seen him mature and grow. I'm very proud of him for being able to get to free agency, have a choice of where to play and choose us and reunite with him.”

The Tigers and Yankees were tied at 1 for most of the game as starters Casey Mize and Gerrit Cole provided a pitching duel between two former No. 1 overall Draft picks.

On-base powerhouse Jeimer Candelario broke a scoreless tie in the third with a line drive that plated Grossman, extending his on-base streak to 24 games. The game fell into a tie as Mize gave up his seventh homer of the season, a leadoff shot to Rougned Odor in the fifth.

Detroit got the needle moving in the bottom of the eighth with Grossman leading off the inning with a walk and stealing second. Candelario’s hot bat smoked a line drive, but Yankees first baseman DJ LeMahieu -- who grew up in the Detroit suburbs -- climbed the ladder and snagged the hard hit to prevent Detroit from scoring the go-ahead run. After Jonathan Schoop led off the ninth with a walk, pinch-runner Akil Baddoo veered too far off first on a ball in the dirt and was thrown out by Gary Sánchez, silencing a potential rally.

But Detroit was able to fight to the bitter end and win it on Grossman’s homer after the Yankees took the lead in the top of the 10th on a passed ball.

Mize was electric in his first career start against the Yankees, allowing one run on five hits and no walks over five innings while striking out a career-high-tying seven. Though he walked away with a no-decision and pitched fewer innings than he would’ve liked, Mize held his own against Cole.

"I definitely want to rise to the challenge,” Mize said. “Obviously, he's a great pitcher who's had an amazing career ... and that's a good team we just beat tonight. I definitely want to rise to the challenge of the pitcher I'm facing and the lineup I'm facing.”

Both hurlers had similar stats through five innings. Mize recorded four more strikeouts than his counterpart through five, but his pitch count neared 100, leading to his removal, while Cole cruised through six innings in under 105 pitches.