NEW YORK -- The Yankees' one-run victory over the Tigers on Monday marked the team's 15th straight game decided by two runs or fewer. Manager Joe Girardi said afterward that he didn't mind the consecutive close games so long as they won them.
But Tuesday night, after seeing a two-run lead disappear, and ultimately dropping the second game of the series to Detroit, 4-3, it appeared as though preserving the win in their 16th straight close game had begun to finally wear on them.
Locked in a 3-3 game in the 12th inning, Alex Avila crushed his eighth home run of the season to deep right-center field off Matt Daley in the Yankees reliever's second inning of work.
"When it's all on the line, that's when I want to be in there, so that's part of what's frustrating," said Daley. "I wanted to come up big and put up some zeros for the guys today."
The loss spoiled a superb night from Hiroki Kuroda, who spun one of his most efficient games this season, lasting seven innings and surrendering three runs over just 91 pitches.
Kuroda only had 74 pitches after six innings of work, but his labors late in the seventh inning proved to be costly, ending his chances for a victory. Victor Martinez singled to start the inning, and Kuroda allowed back-to-back singles with two outs that pushed across the tying run, which wouldn't be broken until five innings later.
"It was a tight game toward the seventh inning, so maybe my pitch count was low, but in a sense, it was a tough day for me," said Kuroda, who was pulled after the seventh. "Our bullpen has been taxed lately, so for me … I wanted to go as long as I could."
The bullpen ended up still being taxed, but the Yankees saw a superb combined effort from relievers Dellin Betances, Shawn Kelley, David Huff, Esmil Rogers, and newly signed Rich Hill, all of whom the Yankees will look to more after Matt Thornton was let go on waivers earlier in the day. The group preserved the tie from the eighth inning on until Avila's decisive blast off Daley.
"Those guys did a heck of a job," said Girardi of his bullpen. "You had an opportunity to win that game, and it's tough. They're playing a very good team, and it's going to happen sometimes."
Before the series began Monday, Girardi explained that, "all pitchers are human," rationalizing the daunting task of facing the Tigers' string of the last three AL Cy Young Award winners. After escaping Max Scherzer, the Yankees made Price -- who threw 8 2/3 innings while striking out 10 in his Tigers debut -- human enough again Tuesday, but couldn't do the same to the Tigers' bullpen.
That included 1 1/3 hitless innings from former Yankee Joba Chamberlain, who entered to boos and heard more of them when he plunked Derek Jeter in the back, one of three hit batsmen the teams totaled on the night.
"You understand you're going to run into guys that have helped you win," said Girardi. "It's just his personality. He's going to show some emotion."
"It's tough to go 12 innings and lose," said Brian McCann, who hit his 12th home run of the season to right for the Yankees' first run. "These are the tough ones to swallow. Anytime you lose, it's the same feeling."
Martin Prado extended the Yankees' lead to two when he clobbered his first Yankees long ball, a solo shot to left in the fifth. Even Brendan Ryan, in a spot start for second baseman Stephen Drew, got into the action, doubling and later scoring in the third inning.
The Tigers struck in the first inning, when Rajai Davis scored on a Martinez sacrifice fly. Andrew Romine chipped away at the Yankees' two-run lead in the sixth inning, launching a solo homer to right field, just his second of the season.
Kuroda retired 14 in a row between those two hits, striking out five altogether and putting his defense to work, which included numerous pulled, hard-hit balls to Chase Headley, who made easy work of them at third base.
"You want to win every game that you play," said Headley, who nearly missed a game-tying home run off closer Joe Nathan to keep the Yankees alive in the 12th. "That's a good team over there. We didn't give them the game. They fought for it and they took it, so that's going to happen."
The loss, which snapped the Yankees' three-game winning streak, felt more like a missed opportunity, squandering a two-run lead against Price as well as the ability to tie the Blue Jays -- who had lost to the Orioles -- for the second AL Wild Card spot.
"It's a tough loss," said Girardi. "But we'll bounce back. Guys understand that they go through games like this, and they'll bounce back."
Jake Kring-Schreifels is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.