It wasn’t to be, however, as Garcia threw the flat splitter in the middle of the zone that has been his calling card this month, and Dirks shot it over the wall in right for a three run homer. The Yankees quickly got a home run of their own off the bat of Nick Swisher in the bottom of the inning, but Garcia wasn’t done doing his damage. Freddy allowed the leadoff man on base for the second consecutive inning on a single from Alex Avila, but Garcia again retired the next two batters, this time holding the runner on first in the process. But with the top of the Tigers’ order up for the second time, the flood gates finally opened as Jackson singled and Brennan Boesch and Cabrera hit back to back doubles to extend Detroit’s lead to 6-1. Girardi wasn’t going to give Garcia any more rope than that with a couple of left handed batters due up, going to the bullpen for LOOGY Clay Rapada, who retired Fielder on a lineout to Alex Rodriguez to get the Yankees out of the inning.
All in all, the end of the bullpen bench turned in another fine performance this afternoon, limiting the Tigers to just one run over 7.1 innings, and that one run came via a solo home run by Cabrera off of Cody Eppley. Can’t really fault your 13th pitcher for getting touched up by one the best hitters in the world. Unfortunately the Yankees’ offense was not quite as up to the challenge. After Swisher’s first inning home run, the Yankees wouldn’t collect another hit off of rookie Drew Smyly until Alex Rodriguez led off the seventh inning with a single. All in all, the Yankees would have just four men reach base against Smyly on the two hits and walks by Derek Jeter and Andruw Jones. After the single by Alex, Jim Leyland would decide to go to his bullpen with Smyly at just 93 pitches, and for the second straight day went to his big guns, calling on Phil Coke to hold the five run lead. Coke promptly got Mark Teixeira, who kills left-handed pitching, to ground into a double play but then gave up a home run to left-handed hitting Curtis Granderson. You would have thought that Leyland would have removed him at that point, especially with fellow lefty-masher Andruw Jones coming up, but Leyland left Coke in and, naturally, Jones grounded out to end the inning. Cabrera’s home run came in the next inning, as the Tigers pushed their lead right back to five runs at 7-2.
Leyland kept his foot on the gas the rest of the way, calling on Octavio Dotel to pitch a perfect eighth inning, and then handing the five run lead to his closer, Jose Valverde. Valverde might have converted every one of his save opportunities last season, but it seems that have game he pitches has the potential to turn into an adventure, and this would indeed prove to be one of those days. Nick Swisher led off the ninth inning with his second home run of the day, this one coming from the left side of the plate, and then A-Rod drew a one out walk to keep the Bombers in business. Mark Teixeira hit a pop up to Fielder in foul territory to leave the Yankees down to their last at bat, but Curtis Granderson singled to bring home A-Rod (who had advanced to second on defensive indifference) and Raul Ibanez, pinch hitting for Jones, laced an RBI double inside the third base line to bring Eric Chavez to the plate as the tying run. Chavez gave the Yankee Stadium crowd a brief thrill, driving a high fly ball to left field, but Don Kelly settled under it with one foot on the warning track to secure the final out for Detroit.
The bullpen: It’s hard to overstate how good the Yankees’ bullpen has been this month, especially the last guys on the depth chart. Today was no exception, as Rapada, David Phelps, and Eppley combined to hold Detroit to one run over 7+ innings and keep the game within reach of the Yankees’ offense. I was especially impressed with Phelps who, coming off of a rough appearance in Texas Wednesday, rebounded to throw three scoreless innings this afternoon.
Nick Swisher: 2-4 with a couple of home runs, one from each side of the plate.
Freddy Garcia: 5 outs record, 5 hits allowed, 6 earned runs, 2 walks, 3 strikeouts, one home run surrendered, 3 extra base hits: the line basically says it all. As far as I’m concerned, there’s no reason whatsoever to give Garcia another start.
The Yankees will try to salvage a series victory tomorrow afternoon in the rubber game of the series. First pitch is at 1:05.