A pitcher’s 300th victory is supposed to a significant milestone, but Phil Niekro has other things on his mind.
Niekro’s second try to become the major league’s 18th 300-game winner fell apart in the sixth inning Wednesday night when the Detroit Tigers rallied for a pair of runs to snap a 2-2 tie, then went on to beat New York, 5-2.
The loss was the sixth straight for the Yankees, their longest losing streak this season.
“Everybody’s putting a lot of emphasis on the 300,” said Niekro, who surrendered 11 hits and three Detroit home runs as his season mark fell to 15-11. “We’re five games behind Toronto. You got to put everything in perspective.
“I wouldn’t care if I pitched nine innnings and we won in the 13th.”
Niekro is confident that his 300th will come, but first things first. New York winds up the regular season with three games at Toronto.
“We’ve got to gain two games,” Niekro said. “We have to go into that series no more than three games down.
“I’m feeling good, and I can play the last two games (starts),” Niekro continued. “I’m throwing the ball where I want to, but my mistakes are hurting me.”
What was supposed to be Niekro’s big night turned into a good one for Detroit reliever Mickey Mahler. After the Yankees scored a pair of runs off Tigers’ starter Juan Berenguer in the first inning on Ken Griffey’s RBI single and a bases-loaded walk to Don Baylor, Mahler came in and worked out of the jam.
Mahler retired the first 15 hitters he faced and worked through the eighth inning, allowing just one hit and one intentional walk to pick up his first victory against two defeats since joining Detroit on Sept. 6.
The hoopla surrounding Niekro did not affect Mahler.
“Just throw strikes, that was my main objective,” the Tiger pitcher said. “I was concentrating so much on the plate, I wasn’t aware of all the people in the stands or the surroundings.”
Kirk Gibson and Darrell Evans hit consecutive home runs for the Tigers in the first inning--Gibson’s 28th homer of the season and Evans’ 34th. Nelson Simmons and Bob Melvin had RBI singles in the sixth, and Larry Herndon hit his 12th home run of the season in the eighth.