DETROIT -- Kyle Lobstein is, for the time being, a relative unknown pitching amongst a rotation stacked with several of the biggest names in baseball.
On Thursday afternoon against the Yankees at Comerica Park, he fit right in. Lobstein's six solid innings set the table for the Tigers to take the rubber game from New York, 3-2. Victor Martinez doubled through the shift to lead off the bottom of the ninth, and Alex Avila sent the Tigers to a walk-off victory with a deep single off the right-field wall.
"That's as high as you can get," Avila said of his emotions following the dramatic win that pushed Detroit into a tie with Seattle for the American League's second Wild Card spot. The Tigers are also 1 1/2 games behind the Royals after KC's loss to the Twins later Thursday.
The clutch hit capped off a ninth inning that was, as described by Detroit manager Brad Ausmus, a roller-coaster ride. To begin the frame, Derek Jeter took what turned out to be his final regular-season at-bat in his home state. Joba Chamberlain allowed the sellout crowd's appreciation to rain down on the Yankees legend in a brief, poignant moment.
A few minutes later, with two outs and runners on the corners, Brian McCann slapped a shot with home run distance to right field off Phil Coke that narrowly hooked foul. Three pitches later, McCann went down on strikes, breathing new life into the Tigers and ensuring Lobstein's impressive day would not go to waste.
Lobstein struggled with some control problems early in his first Major League start -- and second big league appearance -- but worked through them nicely. One of the two runs scored against him, off only four hits, was unearned. He retired the last eight batters he faced in order -- a day after nine straight Yankees collected hits off Detroit ace David Price.
Though the nerves didn't manifest themselves in Lobstein's stat line, he said they were certainly there -- even after he pitched 5 2/3 innings in relief last weekend at Minnesota.
Still, Avila said the young hurler "carried himself out there as if he's pitched in the big leagues for many years."
"Actually, the first inning was pretty smooth sailing for me," Lobstein said. "The second inning's when it kind of kicked in. I got a little bit of nerves going. Just going out there, just trying to go as deep as I can in the game and pitch to contact, which I did today and I was able to keep us in the game and give us a chance to win."
The 25-year-old left-hander was optioned to Triple-A Toledo following the game but will likely return to the rotation as early as next week.
"Any chance I can get, no matter what the situation is or whatever the role is, I just want to be able to help them out," Lobstein said of his situation down the stretch.
Detroit manufactured its first run in the same manner it has used to produce so many this season -- a sacrifice fly. After Nick Castellanos and Don Kelly each singled in the second, Avila skied one to center than was plenty deep to allow Castellanos to score the game's first run.
New York tied the game in the third -- thanks in part to a Castellanos throwing error -- before going ahead in the fourth. After Carlos Beltran doubled Martin Prado to third, McCann got the job done with an RBI groundout for a 2-1 lead.
But the Tigers knotted things in the bottom of the fifth on an RBI single by Rajai Davis and kept the Yankees at bay with scoreless relief appearances form Blaine Hardy, Chamberlain and Coke, who recorded the game's biggest out with the strikeout of McCann.
The approximately six feet to the right of the Comerica Park right-field foul pole was all that kept McCann from giving the Yankees a 5-2 ninth-inning lead that might have been insurmountable at that point in the game.
"Momentum shifts are big in the game of baseball," Ausmus said. "It's not something you can put a statistic on. It's not very tangible. [But] the emotion in a singular game or over the course of a game can be important. That was a big out."
Matt Slovin is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.