DETROIT -- Joe Jiménez immediately and firmly pointed foul, looking to calm the crowd as Edwin Encarnacion sent his ninth-inning slider screaming down the left-field line. Catcher Grayson Greiner could see it headed that way, too, but after watching a half-dozen other balls clear the fence Tuesday night, he had to wait a second.
“It was loud,” Greiner said. “Off the bat, that scared me a little bit.”
The Yankees hit six home runs at Comerica Park. The Tigers had one extra-base hit until the ninth inning but batted around twice, and their 14th single Tuesday night was the game-winner.
“How many did they hit?” asked Jordy Mercer, whose ninth-inning single scoring pinch-runner Willi Castro marked the final lead change in a 12-11 Tigers victory. “So we didn’t beat them at their game. We beat them at our game. It doesn’t matter which way you get them. They get them by the long ball. We get them by throwing a bunch of singles together and scoring runs. At the end of the day, it’s all about who has more runs.
“It was definitely satisfying, though. They’ve got some big boppers over there that can hit them out all over the place. We’ll take our little singles, and if you can score runs, that’s it.”
It marked the Tigers’ third win in four matchups against the Yankees. But after the two teams combined for 11 runs over three early April games in the Bronx, they had 11 runs apiece through seven innings and still needed one more to decide it.
It wasn’t just the number of runs, but the way they piled up. Back and forth they went, the Yankees landing haymakers, the Tigers peppering with jabs.
The Tigers were staring at a 6-0 deficit after two innings upon Edwin Jackson's exit, including two Brett Gardner homers, but they assembled a six-run third on six singles. They included a 375-foot line-drive RBI single from Miguel Cabrera off the top of the right-field wall, seemingly out on one replay angle but somehow just shy on another. It counted just as much as Jeimer Candelario's RBI blooper to shallow center in the next at-bat.
“We obviously jumped out to that early lead, but you've got to give those guys credit,” Gardner said. “They did a good job of swinging the bats, driving the ball in the gaps and made a good comeback."
Solo shots from Gleyber Torres in the fourth inning and Didi Gregorius in the fifth put New York back in front before the Tigers charged back ahead with a three-run sixth. Encarnacion and Gregorius hit back-to-back homers in the seventh to pull the Yankees back in front before Mercer walked and scored on a Harold Castro single in the bottom half of the inning to tie it again.
“They were hungry,” Yankees starter Nestor Cortes Jr. said. “It looked like every time they got on base, they were celebrating. They put up a good fight.”
Not until the eighth inning did both pitching staffs hold down the opposing offenses. Buck Farmer, Detroit’s sixth pitcher of the night, tossed a scoreless top half. Zack Britton, the Yankees’ seventh pitcher, answered.
“Huge,” said Greiner, who spent most of the evening desperately seeking pitch combinations to hold down New York’s lineup. “If that doesn’t happen, who knows? We might still be playing.”
It marked the second time in as many weeks that a team hit six home runs in a game at Comerica Park on its way to setting a Major League record for home runs in a season, following the Twins’ power surge here Aug. 31. In both cases, the Tigers won.
“The ball was flying pretty good tonight,” said Christin Stewart, whose fifth-inning solo homer was the Tigers’ lone extra-base hit for eight innings. “It’s kind of wild how it was. I don’t think it was unusual for them to do that, though.”
When Jimenez shook off Encarnacion’s long drive foul to retire the Yankees in order in the ninth, it marked their longest homerless stretch of the night -- eight batters. When Greiner lined a one-out double to the left-field fence off Chance Adams in the bottom half, it provided two badly needed bases. On came Castro to pinch-run, and up came Mercer to end it.
“I worked back in the count, 2-2, and was trying to see something up and not do too much,” Mercer said. “I know a single wins it.”
Fittingly, Mercer was mobbed rounding first.
“You had a lot of people counting us out in this series. You never know,” Mercer said. “With a group of young kids like that, you have to keep battling, clawing, knowing that some good things can happen if you keep playing. That's the crazy thing about baseball: Nobody can predict it.”