NEW YORK -- The Tigers may not have been the most likely contender to outslug MLB's most powerful lineup, having hit the least amount of homers among all 30 clubs this season, but they did just that behind a two-homer night from Victor Martinez at Yankee Stadium.
Trailing by two runs with one on and one out in the ninth, Martinez and Niko Goodrum hit back-to-back home runs off Dellin Betances to lift the Tigers to an 8-7 victory over the Yankees on Thursday night to snap a five-game losing streak. Entering the series opener, New York had been 69-1 when leading after the eighth inning.
"It feels great when you do something to help your team win," Martinez said. "That's the bottom line."
Jeimer Candelario started the back-and-forth slugfest with his second career leadoff jack off Yankees starter J.A. Happ, who allowed five runs in 4 1/3 innings. In the third, the Yanks took a 2-1 lead when Giancarlo Stanton hit his 300th career homer to right field.
The Tigers quickly answered in the fourth inning on a two-run homer by Ronny Rodriguez to left-center field. A two-run blast in the bottom half by Gleyber Torres put New York in front, 4-3, but the 39-year-old Martinez delivered his first two-run shot of the evening in the fifth to give Detroit a 5-4 lead.
"I've been having a blast, absolutely a blast this year," Martinez said. "This group of guys, they've been amazing. Sometimes, not every time, but just sometimes they make me feel a little younger. I mean they bring so much energy, man, it doesn't matter that we've been struggling a lot this year. These guys keep showing up ready to play, ready to beat whoever's in front of us. I mean, definitely we haven't gotten the results we want, but the attitude they have showed, it shows a lot."
Candelario committed a throwing error in the fifth that allowed Aaron Hicks to score from second, knotting the game at 5. The game remained tied until Victor Alcantara gave up a two-run homer to Luke Voit in the seventh inning to give the Yanks a 7-5 lead. Once the back-to-back knocks in the ninth gave the Tigers a lead for good and a season-high five home runs, Shane Greene worked a perfect bottom half to pick up his 28th save of the season.
"It was back and forth and, you know, it's a good atmosphere," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It's a great atmosphere here, matter of fact. For our young guys, they were into it. They were really getting into it and yelling and hooting in there, and you know what? They don't quit. We know that. They've played hard all year long and got some big hits."
In his final start before Friday night's deadline to be traded and be eligible for postseason play, Francisco Liriano allowed five runs (four earned) on seven hits, including two homers, over 4 1/3 frames. The lefty cleared waivers earlier this month and he has a chance to be dealt. He is winless in his last 16 starts, posting a 5.71 ERA over that stretch.
"Who knows?" Gardenhire said of whether Liriano will be traded before Friday night. "When you've got a guy that's experienced, he can start, he can go out of the 'pen … he can get lefties out, there's no doubt about the way he can spin the ball. So, yeah, I would imagine there's people looking at him and thinking about him. We'll see what happens. We love the guy here and I know he'd like to stay here, but always, if you get a chance to play in a pennant race, that's what baseball's all about."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
After grounding out in his first two at-bats of his Major League debut on Thursday, Dawel Lugo recorded his first hit on a double down the left-field line to lead off the sixth inning. Lugo was called up from Triple-A Toledo prior to the game when shortstop Jose Iglesias landed on the disabled list. More >
"I was super excited to get my first hit and for the team to give me the opportunity to play," Lugo said through an interpreter. "I just want to give thanks for being in this position and I'm very happy."
According to the Tigers, Martinez now has 533 RBIs with Detroit, surpassing Billy Rogell (531) for the most by a switch-hitter in franchise history.
"You know, I never thought about any stat," Martinez said. "I mean, what can I say? Like I've been saying before, I just thank God for putting me in this position that I'm still trying to swing the bat and trying to play baseball with these young guys that are coming in right now. I mean, that's all I got to say."
"I mean, Victor, nothing bigger than that," Gardenhire said. "Set a record tonight, two home runs and put himself in the record books for the Detroit Tigers, which was really cool."
After the game, the Tigers optioned left-hander Josh Smoker to Toledo. The club is expected to announce a corresponding move prior to Friday's game.
"We haven't announced that one yet," Gardenhire said. "We're going to make sure everything goes OK and then we'll be activating a player for tomorrow to help us out."
HE SAID IT
"Victor's having a ball. He knows he's winding down here. He's having a ball and he's enjoying every moment he can. This is a huge moment for him. Here in this game, a couple of home runs, the guys just love it. It's big, we're all rooting for him like you can't believe." -- Gardenhire, on Martinez in the slugger's final season
Tigers right-hander Jordan Zimmermann will take the mound in the second game of the four-game set at 7:05 p.m. ET on Friday at Yankee Stadium. Righty Luis Severino will get the ball for the Yanks. Zimmermann has struggled since the All-Star break, going 2-5 with a 5.50 ERA. But he's had success against the Yankees in his career -- going 3-1 with a 3.09 ERA against New York, including seven shutout innings at Yankee Stadium in August 2017.