DETROIT -- The home run is ingrained into the Yankees’ DNA, and as far as this season is concerned, no one has cleared the fences more frequently. The Bombers belted six home runs on Tuesday, but Jordy Mercer connected for the game-winning hit, a walk-off single off Chance Adams that lifted the Tigers to a wild 12-11 victory at Comerica Park.
Brett Gardner and Didi Gregorius each homered twice as the Yankees inflated their season home run total to 276, briefly setting a new all-time Major League record that was equaled by the Twins later in the evening. Gleyber Torres and Edwin Encarnacion also cleared the fences for the Yanks, who set the previous record with 267 home runs last season.
“Any time you score that many runs, you expect to win the ballgame,” said Gardner, who set a new career high with his 22nd and 23rd homers. “Over the course of the season, you lose games like this, unfortunately. A loss is a loss, it doesn't matter how it happens. You just try to turn the page and do better tomorrow.”
Coming off of a taxing four-game weekend series in Boston in which the Yankees eliminated the Red Sox from contention in the American League East, manager Aaron Boone elected for a “Johnny Wholestaff” bullpen game while offering rest to key regulars like Aaron Judge, DJ LeMahieu and Luke Voit.
Even without those big thumpers, the Yankees built a 6-0 lead through two innings. That advantage was frittered away after Torres fumbled a feed from Gregorius on a potential double-play ball, with Detroit taking advantage of the extended inning to build a six-run frame against starter Nestor Cortes Jr. and reliever Luis Cessa.
“We just struggled putting hitters away a little bit,” Boone said. “They were able to get a lot of hits. A lot of them came with two strikes. The one inning they got back into it early, we gave them an extra out and gave them an extra base where they added on another run. Not our best game tonight.”
Torres restored the lead in the fourth inning with his team-leading 36th homer, his 13th in his past 27 games, and Gregorius slugged a solo shot in the fifth. Christin Stewart homered in the fifth and Detroit pulled ahead with three runs in the sixth. Encarnacion belted a two-run shot in the seventh that tied the game, then Gregorius went back-to-back by clearing the right-field wall.
Detroit scratched a run off Adam Ottavino in the seventh to tie the game, and Boone turned to Adams in the ninth, hoping to push the game to extra innings. That didn’t happen, as Grayson Greiner laced a one-out double and scored on Mercer’s deciding single to right-center field.
“They have bats just like we do,” Cortes said. “They’re a Major League team. They came out ready to play. They were hungry. It looked like every time they got on base, they were celebrating. They put up a good fight.”
The Gardy party
At age 36 and in the walk year of his contract, Gardner is enjoying one of the better all-around seasons of his career, which he continued by taking starter Edwin Jackson deep in each of the first two innings. It was Gardner’s eighth career multihomer game and his first since July 12, 2018, at Cleveland.
“For me, it's just a matter of going out there and doing the same thing that I've always done,” Gardner said. “We've obviously got a talented group of young guys on our roster, and for the most part, we always collectively do a good job of going out there, playing the game the right way, playing hard. Tonight things didn't go our way.”
Gardner’s two big swings were a head-scratcher for Greiner, the Tigers’ catcher who marveled at the presence of New York’s offense.
“It's tough [calling a game against them],” Greiner said. “Heck, Judge, LeMahieu and Voit weren't even in there, [Giancarlo] Stanton. They still have guys one through nine that can leave the yard at any moment.”
Out of arms
By the ninth, though, Boone said that he was out of choices. Tommy Kahnle has been dealing with right wrist tendinitis and was unavailable, and since Boone said that Aroldis Chapman would only enter in a save situation, the call went to Adams over Chad Green (who threw 37 pitches on Sunday at Boston), Ben Heller or Tyler Lyons.
“It has nothing to do with taking a team lightly or anything,” Boone said. “We didn’t play well tonight and we got beat. I don’t think it has anything to do with who we were playing. That’s what happens in this league when you don’t play well.”