Tigers Take Out Claws On Hughes, Yanks’ Bullpen

GAME 5

TIGERS 8, YANKEES 4

The Yankees might be decimated by injuries but manager Joe Girardi figures that in the five seasons he has managed the team that he can always count on his strong bullpen. That is until now.

For a second straight day in Detroit the bullpen imploded in the late innings as Detroit downed New York on a chilly, windy day in front of a paid crowd of 42,453 at Comerica Park.

Phil Hughes (0-1) held the Tigers to one unearned run over the first four innings in his first start of the season after missing all of spring training with a bulging disk in his upper back. However, the Tigers broke a 1-1 tie by batting around against Hughes, Boone Logan and David Phelps, scoring four runs on six hits in the fifth inning.

The injury-depleted Yankee offense responded in the top of the sixth against starter Max Scherzer (1-0) and reliever Al Alburquerque   –  taking advantage of four walks  –  scoring three runs Travis Hafner ended Scherzer’s day with an RBI single and Lyle Overbay slapped a hanging slider from Alburquerque for a two-run double.

The Yankees could have scored more runs but after Vernon Wells was initially called safe at first base by umpire Brian O’Nora on a potential line-drive double play off the bat of Brennan Boesch, but home-plate umpire and crew chief Jerry Layne overruled the call.

The Yankees’ real downfall actually began in the bottom of the sixth when Phelps remained in the game.

Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter opened the frame with singles and Miguel Cabrera drew a walk to load the bases. Prince Fielder scored Jackson on a fielder’s choice grounder and Andy Dirks later scored Hunter on a two-out RBI single.

Dirks added a run in the bottom of the eighth on an sacrifice fly that scored Cabrera off Joba Chamberlain, who helped Cabrera reach third by walking Fielder after Cabrera had singled and then uncorking a wild pitch to allow Cabrera to reach third.

The Yankees’ bullpen has now pitched 20 innings in the first five games and they have given up 18 runs (17 earned) on 28 hits and 12 walks for an ERA of 7.65 and a WHIP of 2.00.

Wit the loss the Yankees drop to 1-4. The Tigers are 3-2.

PINSTRIPE POSITIVES

  • Vernon Wells drew the Yankees even with a solo home run to left-field leading off the second inning. It was his second home run of the season and Wells is showing that he rediscovered the stroke that saw him hit 32 home runs and drive in 106 runs in 2006 when he was an All-Star outfielder with the Toronto Blue Jays.
  • Overbay is proving to a valuable pickup as well. In the first five games, Overbay, 35, was 2-for-4 in the game and is hitting .267 with a pair of two-out, two-run hits this week and he is fielding first base flawlessly in place of 2013 Gold Glove winner Mark Teixeira.
  • Though he had a horrible spring, Hafner is also picking it up as the season starts. He was 1-for-3 with an RBI and he is hitting .313. I guess you have to give general manager Brian Cashman credit for picking up some key replacements for the Yankees’ depleted lineup. They seem to be paying early dividends.

NAGGING NEGATIVES

  • The Yankee bullpen has been a shambles in the early going and it is the real reason why the Yankees are 1-4. Granted, Hiroki Kuroda, Ivan Nova and Hughes did not pitch far enough into the first starts but the bullpen has to do much better than it is doing now. The odd thing is that it not just one guy. One day it is Cody Eppley, the next it is Joba Chamberlain and the day after that it is Shawn Kelley. They have to pitch better, period!
  • Brett Gardner is 0-for-8 in the first two games of the series and that kind of kills the offense a bit when he can’t get on base to use his legs and disrupt the pitcher. He is hitting .150 and the Yankees need for him to get going with the bat like he did in spring training. Gardner did make a diving catch on a sinking liner off the bat of Victor Martinez that saved two runs in the third inning. So his defense is still great.
  • Phelps was excellent last season as a spot starter and reliever but he was awful on Saturday. He gave up two runs on six hits and a walk in 2 2/3 innings of work. His ERA has ballooned to 6.75 and it is hard to figure out why quality pitchers like him in the bullpen are failing.

BOMBER BANTER

A day after being struck in the right arm by a pitch from Tigers right-hander Doug Fister, Eduardo Nunez was held out Saturday’s game. But Nunez said it is possible that he could return to the lineup on Sunday. Nunez was helped off the field in the fourth inning but X-rays showed only a bruised right bicep. Jayson Nix started at shortstop on Saturday and was 0-for-3 with two strikeouts and he committed an error in the first inning that led to the Tigers scoring an unearned run.  . . .  Derek Jeter fielded 41 ground balls hit directly to him, took some batting practice and played long toss on Saturday at the team’s minor-league complex in Tampa, FL. Jeter, 38, has been trying to recover from off-season surgery on a fractured left ankle. After suffering a setback in his rehab on March 23 the Yankees have not established a timetable for his return.  . . .  When the Yankees activated Hughes from the 15-day disabled list on Saturday they optioned right-hander Eppley to Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre.

ON DECK

The Yankees will try to salvage the final game of the series against the Tigers on Sunday.

If so, they are going to need for ace left-hander CC Sabathia (0-1, 7.20 ERA) to pitch better than he did in his first start. Sabathia allowed four runs in five innings in a loss against the Red Sox. He is 18-12 with a 4.43 ERA in his career against the Tigers.

He will be opposed by American League Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander (1-0, 0.00 ERA). Verlander pitched five shutout innings against the Minnesota Twins at Target Field to earn his first Opening Day victory in six tries. He is 5-4 with a 3.74 ERA lifetime against the Yankees.

Game-time will be 1:08 p.m. EDT and the game will be telecast nationally by TBS and locally by the YES Network.

 

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