Unforgettable Yankees Dramatic Comeback Win Over Tigers June 28, 1976

Unforgettable Yankees Dramatic Comeback Win Over Tigers June 28, 1976
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The Historic Yankees vs Tigers Matchup on June 28, 1976

The New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers have had their fair share of memorable games over the years, but few compare to their matchup on June 28, 1976 at Tiger Stadium in Detroit, Michigan. This game featured two powerhouse teams during an era when pitching often reigned supreme. It also included some of the biggest baseball stars of the 1970s on both squads. Let's take a closer look back at this classic Yankees-Tigers showdown from the bicentennial year.

The Lead Up to June 28th

Entering the contest on June 28, 1976, both the Yankees and Tigers were having excellent seasons. The Bronx Bombers sat atop the American League East Division with a 41-19 record. They featured a balanced lineup led by stars like Thurman Munson, Graig Nettles, and captain Willie Randolph. However, their greatest strength was a deep pitching staff anchored by starters Doc Medich, Ed Figueroa, and Catfish Hunter.

The Tigers compiled an equally impressive 39-21 record to lead the American League West Division in the early part of the 1976 campaign. Their batting order contained dangerous sluggers like Willie Horton, Rusty Staub, Ron LeFlore, and Ben Oglivie. But as with the Yankees, sublime pitching truly powered Detroit. Ace Mickey Lolich fronted a rotation that included Dave Roberts and future MLB wins leader Jack Morris.

Catfish Hunter vs Dave Roberts

Given the resilient pitching on both squads during the 1976 season, runs figured to be scarce when New York and Detroit clashed on June 28th. Representing the Yankees on the mound that night was Catfish Hunter, the crafty right-hander in his 12th MLB season. A five-time 20-game winner, Hunter utilized pinpoint control and a sinking fastball to carve up opposing lineups. Detroit countered with their own veteran righty Dave Roberts. Similar to Hunter, Roberts primarily relied on sharp command and changing speeds to baffle hitters rather than overpowering velocity.

Pitching Duel in the Early Innings

As anticipated, the showdown between Hunter and Roberts turned into a pitcher's duel in the early frames. Hunter held Detroit scoreless over the first three innings, allowing just two hits and a walk while striking out two Tigers hitters. Roberts nearly matched Hunter zero for zero, permitting only a solitary single to Graig Nettles through his first three frames while recording four punchouts.

Both pitching masters continued trading scoreless innings over the next few frames. Hunter worked around a two-out double by Ron LeFlore in the bottom of the fourth. After another perfect inning in the fifth, Roberts erased a rare Thurman Munson lead-off single in the sixth with a timely double play ball. Tension mounted with each passing scoreless inning as both hurlers refused to blink.

Drama in the Late Innings

The stalemate finally broke in the bottom of the seventh when Detroit pushed across an unearned run. An error by Yankees third baseman Graig Nettles allowed Ron LeFlore to reach base before Rusty Staub drove him in with a clutch two-out single, giving the Tigers a 1-0 edge. Detroit carried that slim margin into the ninth inning thanks to another strong frame from Dave Roberts in the eighth.

As the Tigers came up to bat in the bottom of the ninth, ace reliever Sparky Lyle replaced Catfish Hunter on the mound for New York. Mark Wagner led off with a single against Lyle and then advanced into scoring position on a sacrifice bunt. The Tigers now stood one run away from victory. But Lyle responded by striking out pinch hitter Bruce Bochte for the second out. Detroit manager Ralph Houk then called upon veteran slugger Willie Horton to pinch hit for Dave Roberts.

In one of the game's critical moments, Sparky Lyle induced Willie Horton to fly out harmlessly to left for the final out. The clutch pitching escape kept New York's deficit at just one run headed to the ninth. Detroit now turned to fireballing closer John Hiller to try and close out the Yankees. Thurman Munson greeted him with a double to start the inning, bringing the tying run to the plate with nobody out.

Dramatic Yankees Comeback

After Hiller retired the next two Yankee hitters, up stepped catcher Rick Dempsey. The backup catcher smashed a game-tying RBI double to right-center field, scoring Thurman Munson all the way from second base. The hit brought ace reliever Sparky Lyle back to the mound, where he once again held Detroit scoreless in the bottom of the ninth.

The game moved into extra frames with both bullpens pitching excellently. Tigers reliever John Hiller tossed two more shutout innings in the 10th and 11th. Meanwhile, Sparky Lyle added three more zeroes of his own to keep the Yankees within striking distance. Entering the 12th inning, Detroit called upon veteran righty Tom Walker to take over on the mound. Willie Randolph greeted Walker with a lead-off triple, putting the go-ahead run on third base with nobody out.

Chris Chambliss then lofted a fly ball to right field that scored Randolph easily from third. The sac fly gave New York a 2-1 lead, their first since the opening frames. Leading by one in the 12th, manager Billy Martin called upon ace closer Sparky Lyle yet again to seal the comeback victory. Lyle navigated through the Tigers order with little trouble, finally clinching the win when Ron LeFlore lined into a game-ending double play.

Lasting Impact from the Yankees Stunning Comeback

The incredible extra inning comeback win for the Yankees over the Tigers on June 28, 1976 capped off one of the most memorable pitchers duels of the decade. Both Catfish Hunter and Dave Roberts were absolutely brilliant, trading zero after zero while allowing just a handful of baserunners through nine innings.

Sparky Lyle also showcased his tremendous talent with six innings of clutch scoreless relief. Without his extended shutdown performance out of the pen, New York never mounts their late rally to steal the win. In all, Lyle threw a whopping 147 pitches over his six frames!

Detroit understandably felt devastated from the crushing last inning loss after coming within one strike of defeating their division rivals. The Tigers had led nearly the entire game thanks to Dave Roberts' gem and Ron LeFlore's RBI hit. John Hiller and the bullpen also held their own for the most part as well.

But as the old baseball adage goes, the game simply isn't over until the final out. The Yankees perfectly embodied that truth on June 28, 1976 by stunning the Tigers with their improbable late game heroics.


Who were the starting pitchers in the Yankees vs Tigers game on June 28, 1976?

The starting pitchers were Catfish Hunter for the Yankees and Dave Roberts for the Tigers. Both pitchers excelled, keeping the game scoreless into extra innings.

How did the Tigers take the lead in the game?

The Tigers scored an unearned run in the bottom of the 7th inning. An error allowed Ron LeFlore to reach base before Rusty Staub drove him in with a clutch two-out single.

How did the Yankees tie the game in the 9th inning?

Backup catcher Rick Dempsey smashed a game-tying RBI double to right-center field off Tigers' closer John Hiller, scoring Thurman Munson from second base.

Who drove in the winning run for the Yankees?

Second baseman Willie Randolph tripled to lead off the 12th inning and later scored the go-ahead run on Chris Chambliss' sacrifice fly.

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