Who needs Floyd and Connor when you have Miggy and Romine?
There was nothing zen about Thursday’s encounter between the Yankees and Tigers, which would serve as their final meeting of 2017. All that was missing from Thursday’s grudge match was Wes Mantooth and a trident-wielding Brick Tamland.
It’s been a frustrating season for Detroit and especially Miguel Cabrera. The 34-year-old will surely go down as one of the greatest right-handed hitters of all-time. But this year he’s been just a guy, hitting a lackluster .254 with 13 homers and 56 RBI. Cabrera as well as fellow veterans Justin Verlander and Victor Martinez find themselves in an awkward position with the struggling Tigers likely headed for a lengthy rebuild. All three have been mentioned in trade rumblings at one time or another and face uncertain futures as fading stars on a team that’s seen better days.
With tensions already running high in Detroit, you could see why Miggy might be eager to blow off some steam. Things got testy in the fifth inning when Michael Fulmer plunked Gary Sanchez, who had homered off him in his previous at-bat. Clearly the Yankees felt there was intent, though Fulmer didn’t subscribe to that narrative in his post-game remarks. “I had zero intention of hitting anybody,” he said. “I would never hit anybody just because they hit a home run off me.”
It seems a bit suspect, though it’s worth mentioning that Fulmer has struggled with nerve issues and said he felt a “zap” on the pitch that wound up hitting Sanchez. With the numbness affecting his command, it’s well within reason that Fulmer may have just missed his spot.
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The Yankees, an ascendant team with legitimate playoff aspirations, had every reason to take the high road, but instead reliever Tommy Kahnle escalated the situation by throwing behind Cabrera with two outs in the sixth inning. Not fooling anyone, Kahnle was ejected for his brush-back pitch and replaced by the highest-earning middle reliever in league history, Aroldis Chapman. Kahnle’s retaliation probably didn’t sit well with a Tigers fan base that was already on his case for drilling Mikie Mahtook last month.
While Chapman was getting loose, Cabrera had words (probably some of the four-letter variety) with catcher Austin Romine, who, as fate would have it, has a brother on the Tigers. Miggy lost it when Romine got in his face, shoved him and began to throw punches. Both benches emptied as Romine wrestled Cabrera to the ground. Though umpires weren’t privy to it, Sanchez played a major role in the skirmish, landing haymakers on both Cabrera (who was being restrained at the time) and Tigers third baseman Nicholas Castellanos.
Sanchez was able to avoid ejection but will surely face suspension when the league office reviews his conduct. With discipline also likely for Romine, the Yankees could soon be without both of their catchers. To make matters worse, the only other catcher on the Yankees’ 40-man roster, Kyle Higashioka, is currently on the disabled list at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.
After Cabrera and Romine hit the showers, order was briefly restored as the Yankees rallied for three runs in the seventh to tie the game at six. But that normalcy would prove to be short-lived as chaos ensued when Dellin Betances took the mound for the bottom half of the inning. Betances let a 98 mph heater get away from him on his second pitch, smoking James McCann in the helmet.
Though it’s doubtful Betances intentionally threw at McCann, under the circumstances, he had to be ejected. Yankees bench coach Rob Thomson took exception to Betances being tossed and soon joined him in the clubhouse after getting the heave-ho himself. Thomson had been filling in for manager Joe Girardi, who was ejected along with Kahnle in the sixth.
David Robertson was tasked with replacing Betances and quickly unraveled as the Tigers took back the lead on a bases-clearing double by Jose Iglesias. More drama unfolded when the Yankees went to bat in the eighth. After a Chase Headley pop-up to begin the frame, Alex Wilson squirted some lighter fluid on the fire by beaning Sinatra enthusiast Todd Frazier on the left thigh.
On cue, the benches cleared for a third time as Wilson and manager Brad Ausmus were asked to leave the premises. Brett Gardner had to be restrained by teammates during the melee, much to the amusement of CC Sabathia. It’s hard to say exactly what set Gardner off, though Joe Girardi claims it was an obscenity shouted by Ausmus. When asked about Girardi’s accusation, Ausmus responded with a simple “false.”
The final tally included eight ejections, four hit batsmen and an endless supply of bad blood. Fights can often bring a team together but Thursday’s extracurriculars seemed to have the opposite effect on the Tigers. Tempers flared in the dugout between innings as Castellanos and Verlander got into it with Martinez. From the looks of it, they were upset at Martinez for fraternizing with Sanchez moments after his cheap shot on Castellanos. One Tigers beat writer said Verlander flipped Martinez off, though it’s hard to distinguish from the footage seen on YES. Either way, it wasn’t a pleasant exchange as Martinez had to be held back from going after Verlander.
In so many words, Thursday was a hot mess. There was in-fighting, regular fighting, bean-balls, sabotage, heel turns and at times, actual remnants of an honest-to-goodness baseball game. Iglesias was obviously the hero for Detroit, leading the way with three hits and a season-high four RBI in the Tigers’ 10-6 victory. He’s swung a hot bat lately, going seven for his last 10 at the dish. McCann, who miraculously stayed in the game after his hit-by-pitch, exacted his revenge on New York by swatting a solo shot off Caleb Smith in the eighth inning. Justin Upton also homered for Detroit, upping his season total to 27. The 29-year-old has been on an absolute tear since the All-Star break (.329, 12 HR, 37 RBI) and could parlay that success into a new contract this offseason.
Gardner and Sanchez did most of the heavy lifting for New York. Gardner celebrated his 34th birthday in style, gashing the Tigers for four hits including an RBI single in the seventh. Sanchez’s two-hit effort on Thursday capped a brilliant series that saw him bat .500 (7-for-14) with four round-trippers and nine runs batted in. Eleven of his 27 homers this year have come in the month of August.
Good luck topping that, Mayweather.
AL Quick Hits: Tyson Ross has been removed from the Rangers’ starting rotation. He’ll be replaced by Nick Martinez, who is slated to start Friday against the Athletics. Ross has struggled to a 7.04 ERA over 10 starts this year … Yoan Moncada left Thursday’s game against the Twins with a recurrence of shin splints in his right leg. He’s headed for an MRI on Friday … Avisail Garcia missed Thursday’s game to attend the birth of his second child. He’ll be back on Friday … Mookie Betts suffered a bruised right knee running into the right field wall Thursday night against Cleveland. It’s the same knee Betts had surgery on last offseason, though the Red Sox are confident he won’t require an MRI … Carlos Santana was held out of the Indians’ lineup again on Thursday but took batting practice and plans to play Friday versus Kansas City. Santana’s been nursing a lower-back injury since Monday … Mike Moustakas was out of the Royals’ lineup on Thursday after feeling a pop in his knee on Wednesday. He flew out in a pinch-hitting appearance as Kansas City fell 3-2 to Colorado … Jose Altuve was pulled from Thursday’s game against the Nationals due to neck discomfort. Marwin Gonzalez replaced him at second base to begin the seventh inning. Altuve’s .357 average leads the major leagues … The Astros activated Brian McCann from the disabled list on Thursday. He missed the minimum 10 days with a right knee injury. The Astros will get another catcher back this weekend when Evan Gattis returns from his concussion. He’s expected to be activated on either Friday or Saturday … Zach Britton received good news from an MRI on his knee, though it’s unclear if he’ll require a stint on the disabled list. If he does wind up on the DL, Brad Brach would slide into the closer role for Baltimore … Tom Koehler pitched well in his Blue Jays’ debut, fanning seven hitters over five innings of one-run ball Thursday versus Tampa Bay. He was opposed by Rays right-hander Alex Cobb, who returned to the mound after missing roughly three weeks with turf toe.
NL Quick Hits: Michael Conforto will head to the disabled list after suffering a dislocated left shoulder as well as a posterior capsule tear. The 24-year-old could be headed for surgery and has likely played his last game of 2017 … According to Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Mets are unlikely to retain manager Terry Collins beyond this season. Collins, who has managed the team since 2011, is in the final year of his contract, which makes it easier for the Mets to move on … Jeurys Familia (shoulder) will be activated from the disabled list on Friday. The right-hander didn’t allow a run during his six-game rehab stint between Low-A Brooklyn, High-A St. Lucie and Double-A Binghamton. He’ll likely be eased into the closer role, which is currently occupied by A.J. Ramos … The Mets have decided to shut Zack Wheeler down for the season. The right-hander suffered a setback last week while rehabbing a stress reaction in his right arm. He last pitched for the Mets on July 22 … Kris Bryant returned to the Cubs’ lineup Thursday after missing the previous game with a bruised left hand. He went 1-for-3 with a double and a walk as Chicago fell 4-2 to the Reds … Max Scherzer threw from 90 feet on Thursday and is hoping to get a bullpen session in on Friday. That puts Scherzer on track to return Sunday against the Mets. He missed his last start due to neck inflammation … Robbie Ray looked sharp in his return from the DL, holding the Mets to two hits and one run over five innings for his 10th win of the season. It was Ray’s first start in the majors since taking a line drive off his head back on July 28 … Greg Holland solidified his closer status by working a scoreless ninth inning for his 36th save Thursday against the Royals (his former team). Before that, he had blown three of his last four save opportunities and was in danger of being replaced by Pat Neshek or Jake McGee … Just as a heads up, this will be my last Daily Dose of the season. I’ll be focusing on football now but I’ll still write my MLB Power Rankings each Tuesday. As always, thanks for reading!