Sabathia went seven strong innings, allowing just four hits to even his record at 1-1. Justin Verlander (1-1) started and took the loss for the Tigers, a three run 2nd inflicting all the damage the Yankees needed. The Tigers' bullpen was nicked for four runs in the final two innings to account for the winning margin.
The Yankees clubbed 13 hits, Jayson Nix leading the Evil Empire with three hits and two RBI, including a home run. Kevin Youklis and Francisco Cervelli chipped in two RBI apiece. The Tigers could only muster six singles, including two each by Matt Tuiasosopo and Torii Hunter.
What sort of game was today's loss? The sort where fruit power rankings are being posted in the game thread.
In a battle of staff aces, the bottom of the Yankees order got on the board first.
Making his first bad mistake of the inning, Verlander walked Vernon Wells leading off the 2nd. Wells was forced at 2nd by Ichiro. Number seven hitter Cervelli hit a liner to left which looked catchable, but Tuiasosopo took a Quintin Berry-esque route on the ball (Rod Allen said something to the effect of of it being a banana shaped route), it getting by him for an RBI double.
After Lyle Overbay flew out, it looked as if the damage would be minimal. But Verlander made his second bad mistake of the inning, hanging a change up to the number nine hitter in the Yankees' order, Jayson Nix. He took Verlander deep over the bullpen in left, the two run home run giving the Yankees a completely unexpected 3-0 lead.
The Yankees had runners in scoring position in each of the first three innings, much helped due to Verlande having command issues early. he was on his way to a second consecutive inefficient performance unitl he finally had his first easy inning of the day in 4th. Verlander needed only nine pitches to sit down the Yankees after averaging 20 an inning (59 pitches) through three.
The Tigers scraped together their first threat with two down in the 4th. Tuiasosopo walked, Brayan Pena fowled with an infield single (his first hit of the season). With a shot at an RBI, Omar Infante hit the ball hard, but right at Wells to end the inning.
Neither team could do much against either ace as an emotionally dead game (the home crowd was completely out of it) proceeded into the 7th. Sabathia was twirling a shutout, Verlander had not allowed a run since the 2nd. Not that a little baseball luck was involved. In the 6th, Victor Martinez smoked a line drive which had extra bases written all over it -- but it was right at Youklis.
Verlander passed the 100 pitch mark in the 7th. Santiago got him out of the inning at pitch 108 on a nicely and very quickly turned 4-6-3 double play off the bat of Robinson Cano. There was no "Handshake of Doom" for Verlander from Jim Leyland, meaning his ace would start the 8th.
With Verlander having gone seven full, would the Tigers' offense wake up in time to take him off the hook for a loss?
It wouldn't happen in the 7th. With the Yankees bullpen up, Sabathia set the Tigers down in order, striking out Jackson on his 114th pitch.
Verlander did start the 8th, but faced only one batter. After Youkilis bounced out 5-3, Leyland made the call for Phil Coke. The happy-go-lucky lefty didn't not have the same success as he did the last time he pitched against the Yankees (the ALCS, of course), allowing a pair of runs.
Hafner greeted Coke with a single to right. But the killer at bat of the inning was the right-hand hitting Wells doubling down the left field line, pinch runner Edwin Nunez taking 3rd. Nunez would score on Ichiro's sacrifice fly to deep right, Wells following suit when right-hand hitting Cervelli singled to center.
Up 5-0 in the 8th, Joe Girardi replaced Sabathia with righty David Robertson. Hunter nearly took off Youklis' head, ripping a single past the diving 3rd baseman. After Cabrera stuck out on a checked swing, Prince Fielder looped a single to short center. Hunter had the ball read off the bat and raced to 3rd, the first Tiger base runner to be within shouting distance of home plate.
A runner in scoring position and less than two out? A tailor made opportunity for Martinez. Unlike he did all through 2011, Martinez could not being the run home. He could only send a fly to short center, not deep enough to plate Hunter.
A rally was not to be. Leyland let Tuiasosopo bat against the right-hander. He struck out swinging.
A boring, ugly game got uglier in the 9th. Youkis continued to rake against the Tigers, tagging Octavio Dotel with a two RBI single, blowing the Yankees' lead up to 7-0.
Needing the work, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera pitched the ninth. He allowed a bloop singles to Infante and Santiago. There would be no late game heroics. Brett Gardner made a nice running catch on Jackson's fly ball to deep right center, Rivera nailed down the win by striking out Hunter.
A brutal game to watch finally came to an end after 3 hours and 21 minutes. Time I'll never get back.
The Tigers' mini winning streak ends at two games, falling back to .500 at 3-3. The Yankees avoid a sweep, raising their record to 2-4.