Results tagged ‘ Victor Martinez ’

Successful homestand ends on a down note

On the face of it, a 5-2 homestand is a good thing. Except that it does not seem like such a good think considering the Yanks’ record was once 5-0.

After a four-game sweep of the Angels, the Yankees won the opener of a three-game series against the Tigers on a shutout, but they dropped the next two games and scored only one run in each. Sunday in front of an Old Timer’s Day crowd of 47,474 at Yankee Stadium they ran into a hot, young pitcher in Michael Fulmer, who improved his record to 7-1 while shutting out the Yankees on two hits through six innings.

Fulmer was one of the players the Tigers got from the Mets last year in the trade for Yoenis Cespdes. The pitching-rich Mets knew they had to give up some talent to get a player of Cespedes’ quality and losing Fulmer was one of the prices they paid for getting to the World Series.

Suzyn Waldman told me a nice story about Fulmer. He is an Oklahoma native and was excited about being here on Old Timer’s Day weekend so he could meet Kay Murcer, the widow of Bobby Murcer, a fellow Okie.

Michael Pineda battled Fulmer for six innings and got a pain in the butt along the way on a single off his rump by Victory Martinez in the fourth inning when Detroit scored its first run on a sacrifice fly by Nick Castellanos. Hey, it could have been worse. The Tigers loaded the bases with none out and came away with merely one run. Pineda finished the inning with a flourish in retiring Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a line drive to shortstop Didi Gregorius and a strikeout of Mike Aviles.

The Tigers struck early again in the sixth inning with a walk and a single putting runners on first and third with none out. Victor Martinez got a run home with an infield out, but Pineda held the damage to that by striking out J.D. Martinez.

It was a mostly positive outing from Pineda, who nevertheless took the loss as his record fell to 3-7. Ian Kinsler, who drove in five runs in the Tigers’ 6-1 victory Saturday, belted his second home run of the series, a two-run shot, in the seventh off Anthony Swarzack to give Detroit a comfort zone.

The Yankees wasted leadoff doubles in the third and fifth innings and mounted a threat in the seventh when they had the bases loaded with two out against lefthanders Justin Wilson, their teammate last year. Gregorius hit the ball on the screws, but Detroit center fielder Cameron Maybin put it away. Gregorius has hit left-handed pitching well all season (.370 in 54 at-bats), so manager Joe Girardi was justified in letting him hit there rather than going to his bench for a pinch hitter.

The loss pushed the Yankees back under .500 (31-32), and they will get a needed day off Monday before going on the road to Denver and Minneapolis. Sunday finished a 41-day stretch in which the Yanks played 40 games. The Yankees were 23-17 over that period.

Yanks get healthy on the road as Tiger tamers

That the Yankees seem to have righted themselves could not have come at a better time. The Mets, the hottest team in the major leagues with an 11-game winning streak, a 10-0 home record and an overall best mark of 13-3, come to Yankee Stadium Friday night for the first round of the 2015 Subway Series.

While the Mets were winning all 10 of their games at Citi Field thus far, the Yankees went on a 10-game trek through Baltimore, St. Peterburg and Detroit and emerged with seven victories and showed exceptional pitching, timely hitting and much improved fielding.

After dropping two of three games to the Orioles, the Yankees swept a three-game series from the Rays and took three of four games from a Tigers team that had the best record in the majors at the start of the set and might have been knocked out of first place in the American League Central if the Royals could win Thursday night against the White Sox. Similarly, a Red Sox loss Thursday night would have thrust the Yankees into a first-place tie in the AL East.

All this sounded impossible a week and a half ago when the Yankees seemed adrift with an abundance of hitting, pitching and fielding lapses. They started the trip with a woeful 2-4 record and come home with a strapping 9-7 mark.

Granted, they ran into a Tampa Bay club that is already heavily laden with injuries, but the Detroit team the Yankees faced has one of the most ferocious lineups in the game and yet was held to nine runs in four games, an average of 2.3 runs per game by the Tigers, who began the series averaging 6.4 runs per game.

The Yankees’ 13-4 victory Wednesday night when they jumped on former AL Cy Young Award winner David Price for six runs in the first inning contained more runs by them than the Tigers scored in the entire series. Former two-time AL Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera was tamed with a 2-for-13 showing.

The Yankees followed that blowout with a tight pitching duel in Thursday’s frosty Comerica Park (33 degrees at first pitch) between Masahiro Tanaka and Anibal Sanchez. Neither was involved in the decison as the score was 1-1 in the seventh inning, the last for each starter.

Tanaka gave up a first-inning run on a sacrifice fly by Victor Martinez and held the Tigers to two hits, both doubles by J.D. Martinez, one out into the seventh with two walks and six strikeouts. The Yankees’ offense wasn’t much better. They had merely three hits. Their runs, both scored by Jacoby Ellsbury, came on a balk by Sanchez and an infield out.

The winning decision went to Dellin Betances (3-0), who snuffed out a rally in the seventh with two critical outs and added a scoreless eighth with two strikeouts. Andrew Miller followed with a  no-hit, two-strikeout ninth inning to go 6-for-6 in saves.

Behind the pitchers was outstanding defense from a team that made 11 errors over its first eight games. The Yankees in their past eight games have committed only one error. Third baseman Chase Headley made two sparkling, back-handed plays that robbed hits and in one case in the seventh inning saved a run.

Playing a day game gave the Yankees the opportunity to get back home the same evening and not in the wee hours of the following morning, so they could enjoy a deserved night of rest before the job ahead of them against their resurgent neighbors from Queens.

Yanks can’t prevent Tigers from late-inning comeback

The Yankees tried to carry the momentum of an uplifting weekend at Tampa Bay into Detroit, but the regenerated offense failed to follow them. They scored merely one run Monday night, a total seldom enough to prevail against the Tigers’ powerhouse.

And yet it almost was this time with CC Sabathia on the mound dealing with a hard-breaking slider and a tantalizing changeup to go with a fastball that occasionally rang in the low 90s. It also helped that the Yankees played exceptionally in the field and ran down several well-struck balls to the outfield.

Sabathia faced the minimum number of batters through the first six innings working with a 1-0 lead supplied by Mark Teixeira’s solo home run (No. 4) in the second inning off Alfredo Simon, who kept the Tigers close in not allowing a run after that.

The Tigers did not get a runner into scoring position until the seventh inning when they turned the game around into their favor. Rajai Davis led off with a single and raced to second after tagging up on Ian Kinsler flyout to deep left field. Miguel Cabrera, who grounded into double plays his first two times up, again hit the ball to the left side. Shortstop Didi Gregorius took a chance throwing the ball to second base in an attempt to trap Davis off the bag, but his throw was saved by second baseman Stephen Drew, who was able to get the second out of the inning by throwing to first base to get the plodding Cabrera.

The Yankees decided to walk Victor Martinez intentionally, which made sense with an open base and the designated hitter having hit the ball sharply in his first two at-bats with nothing to show for it. 

J.D. Martinez is no day at the beach, either, and he proved that with a slashing single off Gregorius’ glove in the hole that scored Davis with the tying run. Detroit grabbed the lead on a single up the middle by Yoenis Cespedes. J.D. Martinez headed for third base hoping to draw a throw to allow the slower Victor Martinez to score from second.

It worked, too. Jacoby Ellsbury threw to third base. While J.D. Martinez was eventually tagged out for the third out, Victor Martinez had already crossed the plate with what proved the deciding run.

Do not fault Ellsbury for the move. Cespedes’ grounder hit the lip of the grass behind second base, which slowed the ball down as the center fielder playing deep was charging. I doubt Ellsbury’s throw to the plate was certain to nail Victor Martinez.

The 2-1 Tigers lead would hold up because a familiar figure to Yankees fans pitched out of a jam in the eighth. With runners on first and third and one out, Joba Chamberlain came out of the bullpen to face Ellsbury, who hit the ball hard but into a rally-killing double play. 

There may be some second-guessing about a play before the DP when third base coach Joe Espada held Chase Headley at third base rather than waving him home from second base on a single to center by Gregorius. What Espada could not anticipate was that Davis, the Detroit center fielder, would bobble the ball for a moment before recovering a firing a bullet to the infield. Headley was no cinch to score in that spot, so I cannot fault the third base coach for playing it safe.

Joakim Soria made it 5-for-5 in saves with a scoreless ninth inning as the Tigers improved to 11-2 while the Yankees fell below .500 again at 6-7.

It was a tough loss for Sabathia, who looked a lot like the CC of old in the first complete game for a Yankees starter this season. To hold the Tigers to two runs and seven hits through eight innings is quite a feat. His record fell to 0-3, but the Yankees have every reason to be encouraged.

Yanks pitchers outshine Tigers’ vaunted rotation

When the Yankees-Tigers series began, all the talk was about Detroit’s rotation. The Tigers had lined up against the Yankees three former American League Cy Young Award winners in Max Scherzer, David Price and Justin Verlander and a 13-game winner in Rick Porcello.

Guess what? None of them notched a victory.

Talk centered on the Yankees’ staff after it limited one of the AL’s top offensive clubs to merely six runs over 39 innings in winning three of the four games. The only game Detroit won, a 4-3, 12-inning matchup, did not provide a victory for their starting pitcher, Price, who was out of the game in the ninth.

Yankees starters, meanwhile, were 2-0 with an ERA of 0.99 as the rotation gave up only three earned runs in 27 1/3 innings. Not that the Tigers’ crew was bad. The Detroit starters combined for a 2.42 ERA, which any manager will take over a four-game set, but it was just not a match for the Yankees.

Thursday’s 1-0 victory behind rookie Shane Greene and in front of a sellout Yankee Stadium crowd of 47,013 was a nice finishing touch. Greene pitched one batter into the ninth and scattered five hits and three walks with five strikeouts to improve his record to 3-1 with a 2.89 ERA. He as yanked in the fifth inning of his prior start at Boston but this time came close to his first complete game in the majors. Maybe next time.

“We won” is the best thing Greene took from the game. He is a man of few words and at times seems overwhelmed by his surroundings in the majors — except when he is on the mound. The righthander utilized an effective sinker-slider mix with an occasional four-seam fastball that was never more valuable than in the sixth when it produced a pivotal double play against Victor Martinez, the second half of the Tigers’ 1-2 punch behind two-time AL Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera, who was rested until the ninth inning Thursday when he batted as a pinch hitter in the ninth against David Robertson (31st save) with a chance to do damage and ruin Greene’s effort.

Cabrera batted with runners on first and second with none out. He hit a hard grounder past Robertson, but it was gobbled up in front of second base by Brendan Ryan, who stepped on the bag and threw the ball to first base for another crucial double play. Fans gasped when Don Kelly lofted a fly ball in shallow center before Stephen Drew, starting at shortstop for a resting Derek Jeter, put it away for a satisfying final out. Also bailing out Robertson in the Kelly at-bat was catcher Francisco Cervelli, who made two terrific stops of balls in the dirt to keep the potential tying run at third.

Drew was also responsible for the game’s only run with an opposite-field double to left in the fourth off Porcello. The new mix of players up from the minors and the result of trades has given the Yankees a burst of freshness.

“It has changed the complexion of the team,” manager Joe Girardi said. “We have gotten better defensively, and pitchers are giving us more innings.”

Greene’s work allowed over-loaded Shawn Kelley, Adam Warren and Dellin Betances a needed day off. The Yankees had been sputtering at home this year but have turned that around since the All-Star break with 10 victories in 14 games.

“We have talked about needing to play better at home,” Girardi said. “We are doing all the little things. These are the best four starts in a row that we have had all season. Their pitchers were the guys being talked about, but our pitchers did a great job.”

Victory vs. Tigers still eludes Kuroda

Hiroki Kuroda was hoping to make history Tuesday night in his start against the Tigers and 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner David Price. Detroit is the only team in the major leagues against whom Kuroda does not have a victory. With a defeat of the Tigers, Kuroda could have joined 13 other pitchers who have beaten all 30 big-league clubs.

For a while there, it appeared as if Kuroda would do just that. After giving up a first-inning run on a sacrifice fly by Victor Martinez, Kuroda set down 13 hitters in a row and watched his teammates take the lead on home runs by Brian McCann and Martin Prado and a two-out, RBI double by Jacoby Ellsbury.

Home runs off Price are nothing new. He entered the game tied for the most homers allowed in the AL with 20. Both bombs were solos, however, so the Tigers remained within striking distance. Detroit cut the deficit to 3-2 on a leadoff home run in the seventh by shortstop Andrew Romine, brother of Yankees farmhand Austin Romine.

Kuroda ended up being hurt by the over-shift defensive alignment that has been in vogue this year. Leading off the seventh inning of a one-run game, Victor Martinez hit a soft grounder to the left side where no one was stationed to field it. A weak dribbler became a leadoff single.

Kuroda almost got out of the inning. He retired Torii Hunter on an infield pop and J.D. Martinez on a fly to center. Nick Castellanos kept the inning alive with a single to center. Alex Avila followed with a single to right field that tied the score.

That was Kuroda’s last inning, so he was hung with a no-decision and is still without a career victory against Detroit. The Yanks have another series against the Tigers Aug. 26-28 at Comerica Park, which if his turn comes up would be Kuroda’s last chance to beat them.

Just for the record, the 13 pitchers who have defeated every club are former Yankees hurlers Al Leiter, Kevin Brown, Terry Mulholland, Randy Johnson, Javier Vazquez, Derek Lowe and A.J. Burnett, plus Curt Schilling, Woody Williams, Jamie Moyer, Barry Zito, Vicente Padilla and Dan Haren.

Another former Yankees pitcher made a return appearance at the Stadium Tuesday night. Joba Chamberlain, once a near cult figure with Yankees fans and now a setup man for the Tigers, relieved Price with two out in the ninth inning and a runner on first base to face Prado, whom he struck out as the game went into extra innings. Chamberlain was barely recognizable with a thick, black beard, which would have never passed muster with the Yankees’ grooming policy.

When a sacrifice isn’t called for

You have to question Brett Gardner’s thinking in the third inning Tuesday night. Light-hitting Brendan Ryan had just led off with a rare extra-base hit, a booming double to left field, and was out there in scoring position for Gardner, the Yankees’ hottest hitter and winner of American League Player of the Week honors for last week.

So what goes Gardy do? Lays one down. That’s right. He drops down a sacrifice bunt to push Ryan to third base. Huh? I have never liked that play unless the batter is a pitcher. You have a runner with good wheels already in scoring position with none out. Why not try to knock the runner in yourself? And if you make an out by at least hitting the ball to the right side the runner will advance anyway.

The play really looked bad when the next batter, Derek Jeter, hit a squibbing grounder to second base against a tight infield for the second out with Ryan having to hold third. Jacoby Ellsbury saved the inning for the Yankees with a liner down the left field line for a double to give the Yankees a 2-1 lead.

After giving up a run in the first inning on a sacrifice fly by Victor Martinez, Hiroki Kuroda settled down over the next few innings and the Yankees drew even against David Price in the second on Brian McCann’s 12th home run.

Gardner saves Rivera again

Brett Gardner came to Mariano Rivera’s rescue again. The way Gardner looked at it, a Yankees hitter picking up Mo was due for all the game’s greatest closer has meant to the team the past 19 seasons.

“I think Mo has bailed us out quite a few times,” Gardner said. “Things like that happen.”

Well, not quite. Rivera had never blown three consecutive save opportunities before the past five days nor had he ever allowed two home runs in a save opportunity. That was the case Sunday when trying to nail down a 4-2 victory over the Tigers Mo gave up solo shots to Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez that tied the score.

“There’s always a first time,” Rivera said. “I don’t pay attention to that stuff; just go out there and do my job. The last three opportunities, I haven’t done it. You have to continue battling.”

But in the last two of those blown-save situations, the Yankees came back to win the game with Gardner getting the climactic hit each time. Friday night after Cabrera stunned Rivera with a two-run bomb over Monument Park in the top of the ninth, Gardner won it for the Yankees with a single in the bottom of the 10th. Sunday it was Gardner who put the Yankees over the top again with his first career walk-off home run, off Jose Veras.

“That’s the first time I ever hit a walk-off homer and might be the last,” Gardner said. “I’ve had a couple of seeing-eye singles, up the middle and through the left side, but never a home run like that. It felt good. It didn’t matter if it was me or somebody else; we just needed to get a win today. I was glad we made it happen.”

It was a happening all right. The Yankees won two of three games from the club with the best record in the American League. It was the first winning series for the Yankees since July 5-7 against the Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Before Sunday, the Yankees had endured eight consecutive non-winning series (five losses, three splits), their longest such stretch in 22 years.

Gardner’s walk-off homer was the second of the season for the Yankees. The other was by Ichiro Suzuki June 25 against the Rangers at the Stadium. Gardner’s eight home runs are the most he has hit in one season. With 23 career homers, the Yankees are 20-3 in those games.

Rivera allowed two home runs in a game for the fifth time in his career and the first time since May 7, 2009 to the Rays’ Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria. Sunday was the first time Mo was taken deep twice in a save opportunity, however.

Yankees starter Andy Pettitte allowed one earned run in 4 1/3 innings, the fewest runs he has allowed in a game since June 8 at Seattle and the fewest in a game at the Stadium since April 4 against the Red Sox. The run off Pettitte came in the first inning, marking the eighth straight start in which he has been scored upon in the first inning, equaling a franchise-record streak by Javier Vazquez from April 3 to May 15, 2011.

With his first home run of the season, Alex Rodriguez passed Stan Musial into fifth place in career RBI with 1,951. It was career homer No. 648 for A-Rod, who is 12 behind fourth-place Willie Mays on the all-time list.

Alfonso Soriano’s solo home run (No. 20) in the fourth inning was his 2,000th career hit. The Elias Sports Bureau reported that Soriano is one of four players who made their major league debuts with the Yankees in the past 60 years to get at least 2,000 career hits, joining Derek Jeter (3,308), Bernie Williams (2,336) and Don Mattingly (2,153). Sori also joined the Red Sox’ David Ortiz as the only players to hit at least 20 homers in each of the past 12 seasons (2002-13).

David Robertson allowed a solo home run to Brayan Pena at the start of the eighth inning. It ended D-Rob’s 20 1/3-inning scoreless stretch dating to June 19. Robertson still has a streak of holding opponents hitless each of their past 23 at-bats with runners on base.

Empty feeling on a night Yanks come up empty

And so it all came down to the guy who boasted after the Tigers took a 2-games-to-1 lead in the best-of-5 American League Division Series that it would not return to New York. Unfortunately for the Yankees, Jose Valverde put his money where his big mouth was and remained spotless in save situations.

Valverde is a real three-ring-circus act as a closer constantly walking the high wire with none of the cool effectiveness of Mariano Rivera. He had Detroit in the AL Championship Series before this series was over, and the Yankees hoped they could make him pay for his putting the cart in front of the horse.

Facing the taunts of those in a record crowd of 50,960 at Yankee Stadium Thursday night, Valverde navigated himself through the ninth inning against three of the Yankees’ best hitters. The closer who converted all 49 of his save opportunities in the regular season made it 2-for-2 in the ALDS by sending Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano and Alex Rodriguez back to the bench, as it turned out for good in 2011.

One of the ironies in how the season ended for the Yankees in the 3-2 loss was that the fault lay more with the hitters than the pitchers. The Yankees were an offensive juggernaut for most of the season, and they did have 10 hits in Game 5, but only two came in nine at-bats with runners in scoring position, neither of which produced a run.

The Yankees stranded 11 base runners – six in scoring position – and left the bases loaded twice. The killer inning as the seventh when infield hits by Derek Jeter and Cano surrounding a single by Granderson filled the bags with one out for Rodriguez, who had a huge chance to overcome an injury-riddled regular season and atone for a dismal postseason.

Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit, who had to remove a huge bandage on his face that covered a big cut on his left cheek, seemed distracted in trying to protect a 3-1 Detroit lead. The inning was getting away from the Tigers and moving in the Yankees’ direction.

A-Rod didn’t have to be a big hero. All he had to was make contact, get a fly ball deep enough or even a ground ball slow enough to stay out of a double play and get a runner home. Instead, he swung through a 2-2 changeup – a pretty gutty pitch when you think of it – for the second out.

The Yanks got to 3-2 when Benoit walked Mark Teixeira to force in a run, but Benoit struck out Nick Swisher, and you could feel the air suck out of the Stadium. With two out in the eighth, Brett Gardner, who had a splendid series, gave the Yankees hope with a two-out single to left off a two-strike fastball. Jeter brought the crowd to its feet with a drive that right fielder Don Kelly caught right in front of the wall.

That was as close as the Yankees got. The ninth was all Valverde, who struck out A-Rod for the final out.

Another irony is that CC Sabathia, the ace in the hole who made the first relief appearance of his major league career, gave up the run that proved the difference on a two-out single in the fifth by Victor Martinez, who used to be his catcher in Cleveland years ago. Sabathia and five relievers were used by Girardi, who felt forced to pull Ivan Nova after two innings because of stiffness in his right forearm.

Nova gave up successive home runs to Kelly, who started the game at second base, and Delmon Young (No. 3 of the ALDS) in the first inning, but it was the way the ball came out of Nova’s hand in the second inning that disturbed Girardi. Nova overcame a leadoff double that inning but was replaced by Phil Hughes at the start of the third. Sabathia’s run was the only one allowed in seven innings by Nova’s successors.

“Our pitchers threw as well as they could all year,” Girardi said. “They pitched their hearts out. They have nothing to be ashamed of.”

Pitching, particularly the rotation, was supposed to be the Yankees’ Achilles heel, but the staff was fourth in the AL in ERA and the bullpen was first. The Yankees batted a decent .260 and outscored Detroit, 28-17, in the ALDS, but their situational hitting left something to be desired — .229 with runners in scoring position. Their victories were in 9-3 and 10-1 blowouts. Their losses were in two 1-run games and one 2-run game.

Jorge Posada, who just might have played in his last game for the Yankees, was their leading hitter in the series with a .429 average. Gardner hit .412 with 5 RBI, but other than Cano (.318) no other Yankees player batted above .300. It was a particularly rough series for Rodriguez and Teixeira, who were a combined 5-for-36 (.139) with 2 extra-base hits (both doubles by Tex) and 4 RBI.

Posada could not contain his emotions after the game and excused himself from a crowd of reporters with tears covering his face. Girardi also choked up when speaking of Posada.

“What he went through this year and what he gave us in the postseason, I don’t think there’s a prouder moment I have had of Jorgie,” Girardi said. “You can go back to when he came up in ’96, how proud of him I was when he caught the perfect game [by David Wells in 1998] and all the championships that he has won. The heart that he showed during the series; that’s why Jorgie has been a great player.”

The only hit that produced a run for the Yankees in the finale was Cano’s second home run and ninth RBI of the ALDS off Tigers starter Doug Fister, who made up for his Game 1 loss with five innings of 1-run, 5-hit pitching.

Detroit manager Jim Leyland kept his promise to keep Justin Verlander out of the game and has him fresh to start Game 1 of the ALCS Saturday night at Arlington, Texas, the place the Yankees had hoped to visit and take revenge for being eliminated by the Rangers last year.

“It’s an empty feeling for everyone in that room,” Girardi said. “It hurts.”

Yanks limp out of Detroit

It’s official. The Yankees are in a funk. Until Thursday, they had been the only team in the major leagues that had not lost three games in a row. Now they are not. Their first three-game losing streak came at the hands of the Tigers, who had lost seven straight games after dropping the first game of the series Monday night.

The Yankees threw away Thursday’s game, a 6-3 loss, literally. Two of the three errors they committed led directly to three runs, the deficit in the game. The Yankees’ offense was pretty active with 10 hits, including 3-for-8 (.375) with runners in scoring position, but were overtaken by a Detroit club that had only four hits.

A.J. Burnett continued the run of Yankees starting pitchers going deep into games with a seven-inning outing, and only two of the five runs off him were earned. However, one of the errors was his errant pickoff throw in the first inning that put Don Kelly, who reached base because Burnett hit him with a pitch on a count of 0-2, at third base from where he scored on Brennan Boesch’s sacrifice fly.

The Yankees took the lead in the fourth inning on RBI hits by Eric Chavez and Eduardo Nunez, who started as subs for resting Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter. Chavez had to leave the game, however, after suffering a bone fracture in the small toe of his left foot running out his first triple in four years. Chavez was headed back to New York to see club physician Chris Ahmad and may have to go on the disabled list.

That meant Rodriguez had to come into the game as a pinch runner, the first time he had such an assignment since his rookie season of 1995 with the Mariners when he spelled Tino Martinez. A-Rod, who had been on the bench not only resting his body but also a 7-for-50 (.140) slide, wound up with two hits and scored two runs, so maybe he is working himself back to form.

Detroit played some small ball in the sixth inning and tied the score after Ramon Santiago bunted Kelly to second base on a two-out single through the middle by Boesch, who topped off a big game in the eighth with a solo home run off lefthander Boone Logan.

The critical play came in the three-run seventh when the Tigers took control of the game. Burnett lost a 9-pitch duel with Victor Martinez, who singled to center leading off, then walked Magglio Ordonez and hit Ryan Raburn with a pitch to load the bases with none out. Brandon Inge broke the tie with a sacrifice fly, but Burnett should have been out of the inning after getting Santiago out on a bouncer to second baseman Robinson Cano playing in and Kelly on a grounder to short.

Nunez had all the time in the world to throw out Kelly but sailed his peg over first baseman Mark Teixeira. Two runs scored on the error, the second of the game for Nunez and his fifth in 22 innings in the field. For a backup infielder who is supposed to supply solid defense, this is unacceptable. Expect infield coach Mick Kelleher to work with Nunez to correct this part of his game.

Another coach with his work cut out for him is hitting coach Kevin Long. It is not a good sign when two of the three .300 hitters on the club are bench players – Nunez (.385) and Chavez (.303). Cano had two hits Thursday to get back over .300 (.303), but the Yankees had 6-for-32 (.188) with runners in scoring position and left 30 runners on base in the series.

One bad inning was all it took

It is easy to become spoiled by a player’s performance. Freddy Garcia may have done that to the point that Yankees fans might be disappointed by what he did Wednesday night. Think of this, though. When the Yankees signed Garcia, wouldn’t you have been pleased if you could count on his pitching into the eighth inning of a game?

I sure would, which is why Garcia deserves another passing grade even though he was on the losing side of a 4-0 score to the Tigers, a team he has handled over the years (18-8, 4.12 ERA). Garcia basically had one bad inning, but that was all it took for Detroit to take control behind the four-hit, nine-strikeout pitching for eight innings by Max Scherzer, who improved his impressive record to 5-0 with a 3.15 ERA.

Garcia seemed in big trouble in the second inning when Victor Martinez, Magglio Ordonez and Jhonny Peralta singled in succession to produce one run, but Freddy avoided further damage by getting the next three batters out.

The Tigers came right back in the third with three more runs on an RBI double by Miguel Cabrera and a two-run home run by Ordonez. It was the first time Ordonez went deep this year, in his 85th plate appearance, on a first-pitch fastball that Garcia later admitted he should not have thrown.

Ordonez has struggled this season coming off right ankle surgery, but he is a dangerous hitter, and Garcia had a base open. Coming inside with heat on the first pitch was a poor move, and he knew it. Garcia would have been better off pitching around Ordonez or trying to get him chase out of the zone, but it was too late.

The way Scherzer was pitching, the four-run lead might as well have been 10. The Yankees got only two runners in scoring position against the hard-throwing righthander, who walked two and struck out nine, and could not come to Garcia’s rescue after he held the Tigers in check for four-plus innings after the third.

The Yankees have fallen into a collective slump. Unless Eduardo Nunez starts at shortstop in the series finale at Comerica Park Thursday, the Yankees will field a batting order without a .300 hitter in it. Robinson Cano fell below .300 after going 0-for-4 to join his scuffling teammates.

The idea that Nunez could be in Thursday’s starting lineup surfaced when Derek Jeter was forced out of the game due to a sore right hip. As usual, he made light of the ailment and refused to consider it an injury, but manager Joe Girardi said Jeter was “day to day,” which could mean that Nunez will be in there Thursday to give the captain time to recover.

That the offense failed to generate anything against Scherzer does not take anything away from the effort by Garcia, who continued the Yankees’ recent stretch of solid starting pitching. In the past 16 games, starters have averaged 6 2/3 innings per game and have a combined 2.89 ERA. It is enough to make a fan spoiled.