The Yankees had some chances tonight in Detroit.
They loaded the bases in the sixth but couldn’t score a run. They loaded the bases with no outs in the eight, but could only score twice to pull within one. They had their second, third and fourth hitters at the plate in the ninth, but all three struck out.
“They pitched well,” Derek Jeter said. “They made some big pitches. They have some guys in their bullpen who throw pretty hard and get out of some jams.”
Of course, it was hard to ignore all of the former Yankees who played a key role for the Tigers. Austin Jackson drove in a run with a ground out in the third, Johnny Damon went deep off Sergio Mitre in the fourth, and Phil Coke made some huge pitches to help limit the damage in that almost-go-ahead eighth.
“Johnny, he likes playing in games like this,” Jeter said. “I’m sure he’s probably feeling pretty good over on the other side. We’ve seen him do against us on the other side. We’ve seen him do it for us. It’s really not surprising.”
We’ll go with the Joe Girardi postgame audio tonight. Truth is, none of the Yankees had much to say.
• The play of the game was obviously Magglio Ordonez’s sliding catch in the eighth. Girardi said he thought it was a double off the bat, but as the ball got into the outfield and he saw where Ordonez was positioned, he knew it would be caught. “I don’t really look where people are playing when I’m hitting, but he made a good catch,” Jeter said. “He was positioned perfectly.”
• Two offensive bright spots for the Yankees: Two more hits for Alex Rodriguez and another home run for Mark Teixeira who has become his productive self this month. “He’s swinging the bat great,” Girardi said. “He lined out again tonight too. It looks like it’s really starting to turn for him.”
• Two pitching bright spots: An overwhelming inning from Joba Chamberlain and five outs from Dave Robertson, who had to pitch around a botched fly ball — Brett Gardner simply never saw it — to get out of a jam. “Robby did a good job,” Girardi said. “He threw the ball well. Maybe that’s what gets him going.”
• I’m sure people are upset about the Randy Winn at-bat in the eighth. He swung at a 2-0 pitch against a pitcher who had been wild, but Girardi had no problem with the decision. “You’re looking for a ball up and he got a ball up,” Girardi said. “It was maybe just a little too up. You’re looking to hit a sac fly so you’re not looking for a ball down, you’re looking for a ball up in the zone. He just didn’t get on top of it enough.”
• Big-time ninth inning by Jose Valverde, who got Swisher and Teixeira on splitfingers, then went after Rodriguez with high-90s fastballs.
• Sergio Mitre got a lot of ground balls today, and both Girardi and Mitre seemed fairly happy with his execution of pitches, just not the results. “That’s pretty much what I’m supposed to do,” Mitre said. “Keep the ball down. Sink the ball. Get ground balls. First and second innings, I got my ground balls, they just found holes.” The home run by Damon was a mistake pitch, the only none single he allowed.
• Ivan Nova got to Detroit in time for the game, but Girardi didn’t want to hand him a two-run game in his major league debut. “Because it’s close,” Girardi said. “It’s a close ballgame. Serge gave us some innings and Nova is a guy who can give us 100 pitches, 110 pitches. I felt that the bullpen could keep it close and we’d have a chance to win. It’s not that I’m afraid to use Nova in a tough situation, but he’s not used to coming in in the middle of an inning, so I went to Robby.”
• Girardi said he’ll check with Brian Cashman to determine whether the Yankees need to make yet another player move tomorrow.
• We’ll let Damon have the last word tonight: “I always have fire. Always trying to beat the other team. Old teammates or whatnot. I’m just proud of our guys. Our bullpen is our glue on this team right now. We played solid baseball and against a team that was ready. Even though they got in at 4 in the morning, those guys know how to get ready for a ballgame and they just about pulled this one off tonight.”
Associated Press photos.