Phil Niekro failed in his third bid to win his 300th game as John Grubb homered and drove in five runs and Lance Parrish added a two-run homer to lead the Detroit Tigers to a 9-1 victory over the Yankees last night in New York.
Niekro, trying to become the 18th pitcher in major league history to win 300 games, did not survive the fifth inning. He left after Parrish's home run gave the Tigers an 8-0 lead with no outs in the inning.
The loss further damaged New York's chances of overtaking Toronto in the AL East. The first-place Blue Jays beat Boston to extend their lead to seven games and lowered their "magic number" to six.
Winner Frank Tanana (10-14) pitched a five-hitter for seven innings. Randy O'Neal gave up the Yankees' only run in the eighth, on Don Mattingly's 30th homer.
Niekro (15-12) once again was thwarted by the hard-hitting Tigers, who are 4-0 against the 46-year-old knuckleballer this season.
In his last start, six days ago in Detroit, home runs by Kirk Gibson, Darrell Evans and Larry Herndon handed him a 5-2 loss. Niekro lost to Toronto, 3-2, in his other attempt to win No. 300.
This time, Niekro retired the Tigers in order in the first inning but ran into trouble in the second.
Parrish singled, Evans walked and, one out later, Grubb drove a ball deep into the center-field bleachers for his fifth home run and a 3-0 lead.
As Grubb circled the bases, Niekro walked toward the plate, picked up Grubb's bat and threw it toward Detroit's dugout.
In the third, Alan Trammell singled and later scored on Gibson's double.
Two outs on either side of a walk to Evans again brought up Grubb, who doubled off the right-center field fence for a 6-0 lead.
The end for Niekro came in the fifth. Gibson walked and Parrish hit the next pitch into the left field seats. Niekro allowed seven hits and walked three.