DETROIT — The newcomers to Detroit’s starting rotation are certainly pulling their weight so far.
Alfredo Simon pitched impressively into the eighth inning April 20, and the Tigers added another victory to baseball’s best record with a 2-1 win over the New York Yankees.
J.D. Martinez and Yoenis Cespedes hit consecutive RBI singles in the seventh to help Detroit rally.
Simon (3-0) allowed a run and seven hits in 7 1-3 innings, striking out seven without a walk. He and Shane Greene were the less-heralded additions who replaced Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello in Detroit’s rotation. So far, they’re a combined 6-0 with a 1.03 ERA.
“I think our starting pitching, as ballyhooed as the offensive lineup is, our starting pitching has been the backbone of our start,” Manager Brad Ausmus said.
Joba Chamberlain relieved Simon and got Jacoby Ellsbury to hit into a crucial double play in the eighth, and Joakim Soria pitched the ninth for his fifth save. The Tigers (11-2) remained a game ahead of Kansas City atop the AL Central.
CC Sabathia (0-3) faced the minimum number of hitters through the first six innings, but with two out and a man on second in the seventh, the Yankees intentionally walked Victor Martinez. J.D. Martinez followed with a sharp single that shortstop Didi Gregorius was unable to keep in the infield, and Cespedes’ single scored Martinez.
With Chase Headley on second and one out in the eighth, Gregorius singled up the middle. Rajai Davis bobbled the ball in center, but Headley had already been held up at third.
Then Chamberlain came on in a huge spot against his former team. Ellsbury’s hard grounder went right to second baseman Ian Kinsler, and the double play ended the threat.
“I live for that stuff. It’s so fun to come in, in a situation like that,” Chamberlain said. “You’ve got to be able to get a big play, and back up our guy that was strong for us for seven innings.”
Mark Teixeira’s second-inning homer put the Yankees up 1-0, and Sabathia kept the lead for a while. Detroit hit into three double plays in the first six innings, and Jose Iglesias was caught stealing in the third when Sabathia stepped off the mound and caught him between first and second. The 6-foot-7 left-hander went over and tagged Iglesias out himself.
Rajai Davis singled to start the Detroit seventh, then hustled to second on Kinsler’s flyout to deep left.
“That was a really smart play that turned into a huge play for them,” Yankees Manager Joe Girardi said. “He knows this park really well, and he’s a lot faster than we wish he was, so he was able to take that base and keep them out of a double play.”
Miguel Cabrera grounded out in an unusual 6-4-3 putout — Gregorius threw to second to try to catch Davis off the base, and although the Detroit runner got back safely, Stephen Drew still had time to relay the ball to first in time to get Cabrera.
Victor Martinez was then given his free pass, and J.D. Martinez and Cespedes put the Tigers ahead.
Sabathia allowed two runs and seven hits in eight innings — his 38th career complete game and first since 2013. He threw 98 pitches.
Alex Rodriguez went hitless with a strikeout for the Yankees. He had to duck twice to get out of the way of Simon’s pitches — although both looked like curveballs and were measured in the mid-70s on the stadium scoreboard.
“My mom’s birthday is today,” Simon said. “She asked me, ‘I want you to strike out Alex Rodriguez and win the game.’”
(NOAH TRISTER, AP Baseball Writer)