Despite an overnight deluge, the Yankees and Tigers got the finale of their four-game set in on Thursday afternoon, though the Yankees probably wish they hadn’t. Not only did they lose, but because Tuesday night’s rain-out forced Phil Hughes and Javy Vazquez to both pitch on Wednesday, the Yankees will have to choose between Sergio Mitre or a minor league call-up (such as Ivan Nova, who finished Thursday’s game for CC Sabathia) to pitch against the Twins on Sunday because both Hughes and Javy would be on short rest that day. Had Thursday been rained out, everyone could have been pushed back a day, erasing the need for another spot start, but there were no raindrops to hide the Yankees’ teardrops on Thursday, just a hard wind blowing in that kept a hanging curve from Justin Verlander that Juan Miranda tattooed with a man on in the top of the second from even reaching the warning track in straight-away center.
Despite giving up all six runs in the 6-0 final score, CC Sabathia actually pitched pretty well and even seemed to be out-pitching Justin Verlander in the early going, despite giving up an early lead. The Yankees didn’t get a lot of hits against Verlander (just four on the day), but they worked him over for four walks and got his pitch count up early. He ultimately worked 6 2/3 innings, but struck out just four men and needed 119 pitches to get that far. Sabathia, by comparison, walked no one and needed just 54 pitches to get through the first five innings despite giving up three runs along the way.
The first Tiger tally came in the bottom of the second, when left-handed rookie slugger Brennan Boesch doubled over Brett Gardner’s head in center and, with two outs, Gerald Laird drove him in by accident on a check swing bloop that dropped in to shallow right field for a single. Then in the fourth, Sabathia floated a 2-1 sinker up in the zone and right over the plate for Miguel Cabrera, who launched it the other way for a solo homer. Boesch followed by yanking a 1-2 hanging curve down the right field line for another solo shot to make it 3-0.
With CC pitching efficiently and Verlander’s pitch-count climbing, there was reason to be optimistic about the Yankee offense, which had scored fewer than three runs just twice all season, closing that gap, but in the sixth, CC fell apart, giving up singles to Johnny Damon and Magglio Ordoñez to start the inning, then floating another two-seamer to Cabrera, who crushed it into that wind for a double that plated both runners and ran the Tiger lead to 5-0. Sabathia rallied to strike out Boesch and got Brandon Inge to fly out to center without Cabrera advancing, but, with two outs, Laird, who entered the game hitting .157 and had just one prior multi-hit game this season, doubled home Cabrera to set the final score.
Rookie Ivan Nova pitched the final two innings, stranding a pair of two-out singles in the eighth and working a 1-2-3 ninth. He looked sharp in his major league debut, showing low-90s heat that touched 95 and a sharp curve as well as a changeup that split the difference. It will be interesting to see if the Yankees tap him for Sunday’s game over Mitre, who pitched well enough but wasn’t terribly impressive in Monday’s spot-start.
The loss sent the Yankees home with a 3-4 record on their two-stop road trip. That after winning a pair of blowouts in Fenway to start the trip. It also handed the Yankees just their second series loss of the season. Blame the offense, which after scoring as few as two runs just once prior to arriving in Detroit was shut out twice, once by a pitcher who entered the game with a 7.50 ERA (though, in fairness, Rick Porcello is closer to a shutout pitcher than a 7.50 ERA pitcher). Setting aside their six-run outburst against a pitcher who had just arrived from Triple-A in the ninth inning of Wednesday’s nightcap, the Yankees have scored just nine runs in the last five games. On Thursday, the lineup was missing Curtis Granderson, Nick Johnson, and Nick Swisher. Late in the game, Derek Jeter, whose single on Thursday was his only hit in those five games, was hit in the pinky by a Verlander pitch. Jeter stayed in the game and says he’s fine, of course, but those who remember his slump after being hit by a Daniel Cabrera pitch two years ago will likely be holding their breath until he gets hot again. Swisher is merely day-to-day with a biceps strain and should be in the lineup on Friday, but these mounting injuries are finally beginning to show up on the bottom line. The Yankees are home on Friday and need to get well quick as the AL Central leaders will be followed into town by the Red Sox and Rays.