NEW YORK -- With two on and none out in the ninth inning and trailing by a run, the Tigers had their best scoring opportunity of the afternoon on Thursday.
Manager Brad Ausmus decided it was time to use his best hitter, Miguel Cabrera, who had given a rare break from the starting lineup, as a pinch-hitter for J.D. Martinez.
In front of a sellout crowd at Yankee Stadium, David Robertson got Cabrera to bounce into a double play, leaving the Tigers with two outs and a runner at third and Don Kelly at the plate. Kelly popped out to the shortstop and sealed Detroit's 1-0 loss to the Yankees.
Martinez has been a better hitter than Kelly, but Ausmus did not want to wait to use Cabrera or risk being in a situation where he did not use his best option.
"I'd rather have two runners on with Miggy hitting than one," Ausmus said. "So go to our best hitter right now with two runners on, as opposed to waiting and seeing what happens."
He added: "Not that it's likely, but if J.D. hits into a triple play, then all of a sudden we've left our best hitter on the bench."
And recently, the Tigers' offense has not given Ausmus any reason to feel like a optimistic as a bystander. Detroit (62-50) scored six runs during this four-game series in the Bronx, dropping three of those games and wasting yet another strong start from a member of its star-studded rotation -- this time, Rick Porcello.
"They did everything they could to win ballgames," Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez said of the pitching staff. "Offensively, we just didn't do anything. It's very -- I'm having a hard time finding the right word to say it. … Offensively, we just didn't put anything together."
Porcello was the latest starter to have his strong outing spoiled. The right-hander was going for his 14th win, which would have tied a career best, but said he did not have his best stuff on Thursday, which resulted in an unusually high amount of fly-ball outs.
The Yankees pushed across their lone run in the fourth inning, when a popup by Stephen Drew landed fair down the left-field line and bounced into the stands for a ground-rule double to drive in Carlos Beltran.
"It was kind of weird, though," said Porcello, who scattered nine hits over seven innings. "They hit a lot of balls hard right at guys, and some of the balls they didn't hit hard fell in for hits."
A night before, the Tigers were limited to just one run, and Ausmus said the Tigers' offensive performance was as bad as he had seen from them all season.
Ausmus did like his club's approach at the plate better in this game, but it had no answer for Yankees starter Shane Greene, who navigated through a Tigers lineup missing a few key regulars -- namely Cabrera and Torii Hunter, who missed his second consecutive game with a left hand contusion -- with little trouble.
Greene's sinker reduced the Tigers into repeated ground-ball outs during a career-high eight shutout innings, in which he added five strikeouts.
With the Yankees clinging to the 1-0 lead, Greene took the mound to start the ninth to face the middle of the Tigers order. But the first batter he faced, Ian Kinsler, singled to quickly end Greene's day.
Martinez greeted Robertson by working a walk to put runners on first and second. But Robertson escaped the jam to earn his 31st save of the season.
The Tigers' rotation carried the marquee names at the start of this series, but it was Yankees starters Brandon McCarthy, Chris Capuano and Greene who outdueled Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Porcello, respectively.
"There was a lot of talk about their starting pitching coming into this series, and I think our guys were up to the challenge," Yankees infielder Chase Headley said. "Tremendous series for us."
Jamal Collier is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.