Both pitchers started the game with three effective and scoreless innings. The Yankees got two hits in the top of the second off of Tigers’ starter, Rick Porcello, but an Eric Chavez double-play ball kept those hits from doing any damage. Curtis Granderson struck out in the first and the third. Phil Hughes looked on fire the first three innings. His fastball gave him two strikeouts to lead off the bottom of the first and then threw a wicked inside fastball to Miguel Cabrera and the great Tiger hitter fouled out. Great inning. In the second, Hughes worked easily around a single. Great inning. Hughes worked again around a single in the third and looked in complete control. Then the Yankees scored. Dang.
Derek Jeter led off the top of the fourth with a bounding single through the left side of the infield. But Robinson Cano grounded into a double play. For the second time in the game, Mark Teixeira beat the shift with a screamer to right for a single. And that’s when Eric Chavez beautifully took an outside fastball to left on a line and it left the park in a hurry to give the Yankees the 2-0 lead. The Tigers had the Yankees right where they wanted them.
Sigh. The very next inning, the first batter, Miguel Cabrera, crushed a get-me-over fastball deep to left for his 900th homer against the Yankees to cut the lead to 2-1. Hughes then struck out Prince Fielder but ran into Brennan Boesch. Boesch entered the game batting under .250 but had a decent history against Hughes in a small sample side. Boesch came up in the fourth for the second time and did exactly what he did his first time up. He wore Phil Hughes out and hit singles. In Boesch’s first two at bats against Hughes, his at bats accounted for over twenty Hughes pitches. You just have to hat tip Boesch there. Great ABs.
After Boesch singled, Delmon Young flew out to deep right to make it two outs. Perhaps Hughes could get out of the inning? Nope. Hughes went 0-2 to Jhonny Peralta on two great curves. But Hughes went to that well once too often (or Russell Martin did) and Hughes’ next curve was a roller that Peralta pulled down the left field line for a double. Boesch had taken off for second before the hit and scored easily from first despite a great throw from Ichiro Suzuki. The score was tied. Once again, a Yankee pitcher could not complete a shut down inning after being given the lead.
Thanks in part to Boesch, Hughes threw close to forty pitches in the fourth inning and Porcello did what a pitcher should do after such an inning and quickly retired the Yankees in order with less than ten pitches to force Hughes to get right back out there. It worked.
By the bottom of the fifth, Hughes abandoned his fastball for his curve. Why? Who knows. But the Tigers jumped on them. Andy Dirks and Austin Jackson led off the inning with singles. In Hughes’ defense, Jackson’s was a screamer to third that Eric Chavez should have come up with and turned into a double play. Sure, it was a do or die play, but third basemen are asked to play the hot corner to make those plays. If you ask Chavez, he will probably tell you he should have come up with it. It was ruled a single. Hughes, still playing with his curve, hung one to Miguel Cabrera and he did what he usually does and banged the ball off the wall in left to score both runners. Goodbye Hughes, hello Boone Logan. Logan got out of the inning in what was a good outing for him.
Porcello cruised through the middle innings retiring seven batters in a row and the Yankees brought in Cody Eppley for the sixth. Eppley looked like he was going to have a good inning as the first two batters grounded out. But it would not be a clean inning for the submariner. Alex Avila singled to center and then Andy Dirks hit a double to right. Avila scored but Dirks was thrown out at third on a perfect relay by the Yankees. The Yankees were now in a 5-2 hole with a hot pitcher on the mound.
In the top of the seventh, Porcello got Eric Chavez to pop out, but Nick Swisher–who broke out of his 0-13 slump with a three hit night–hit a double. Raul Ibanez grounded out to second and though Swisher moved to third, there were then two outs and Ichiro came to the plate. The run wouldn’t score, right? Wrong! Ichiro came through! He hit a double past third and Swisher scored to tighten the game to 5-3. That was it for Porcello and Martin ended the little rally with a pop up.
The Yankees got the Tigers out in the bottom of the seventh with the combination of Eppley and Clay Rapada. Old friend, Octavio Dotel pitched the eighth and was fortunate as Jeter and Cano nailed two line drives but right at outfielders. That led to the bottom of the eighth.
Clay Rapada started the inning and got his man to finish a very good outing for him. Surely, Joe Girardi would bring in David Robertson to keep the game close, right? Don’t call me, Shirley. Nope. Instead he brought in the obviously still rusty Joba Chamberlain whose rust led to walks and singles to give the Tigers another run to push the lead back to three. That run would be huge.
It was huge because the Yankees got to Papa Grande with his myriad of antics and funky colored little ponytail. Mark Teixeira started the top of the ninth with a pop up for the first out. But then Eric Chavez singled. Nick Swisher struck out on a ball outside to make it two outs. But then things got very interesting. Raul Ibanez had a Boesch-like plate appearance and worked a ten-pitch walk. And then Ichiro came through again! He singled to score Chavez from second. And then Russell Martin doubled to score Ibanez and put the Yankees within a run (without Joba’s run, it would have been tied). Ichiro was held up at third and it appeared to be the right call by Thompson. That brought up Curtis Granderson.
Sigh. Granderson was zero for four on the night with three strikeouts. Sadly, he would not be the hero here or improve his game. Granderson popped out to Fielder and Jose Valverde pranced around like his 33-pitch fiasco was a work of art and the Yankees fell a run short.
The top three batters in the Yankee lineup went a combined one for thirteen with Jeter getting the only hit of the trio. But Teixeira, Swisher, Chavez and Ichiro all had multiple hits in the game. Hughes lasted only four and a third innings and threw 102 pitches. He gave up eight hits and four runs and struck out three. He did not walk a batter.
The Tigers have taken the first two games of this four game series and the Yankees will need to take the next two to avoid losing another series. C.C. Sabathia will start tomorrow night against the Tigers’ deadline acquisition, Anibal Sanchez.