Saturday comeback falls short this time

When the Yankees fell behind to Detroit, 6-1, in the second inning Saturday, I thought back to the previous Saturday when they fell behind, 9-0, to the Red Sox at Fenway Park, a game in which they came back to win, 15-9. Could do they do something like that again?

Thanks to Tigers closer Jose Valverde, that human rain delay on the mound, the Yankees eventually made a game of it with three runs in the ninth inning before falling, 7-5. Those remaining in the Yankee Stadium crowd of 44,686 got one last chance to cheer when Eric Chavez lifted a fly ball to deep right field that died on the warning track.

As riveting as a comeback would have been for the Yankees, I must say it would have been an outright shame if Valverde had blown that game for rookie lefthander Drew Smyly, who earned his first major-league victory with six-plus crisp innings in which he allowed one run and two hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. The Yankees were batting .292 against lefties before Saturday’s game but could not handle Smyly, who is the antithesis of Valverde in that he gets the ball back from the catcher and is ready to deliver the next pitch, a novel concept.

Nick Swisher opened the ninth with his second home run of the game and fifth of the season, a drive to left field. He had gotten the only hit off Smyly over the first six innings, a homer from the right side of the plate in the first. Nick’s 18th multi-homer game also marked the 11th time he has gone deep from both sides of the plate in the same game, tying him with Hall of Famer Eddie Murray and Chili Davis for second place behind teammate Mark Teixeira, the record holder with 13.

Tex made the second out on a foul pop behind first base with Alex Rodriguez on second after a walk and defensive indifference. Curtis Granderson’s single to left on a two-strike pitch knocked in the second run of the inning, and Raul Ibanez got the Yanks to 7-5 with a double inside third. But Chavez couldn’t finish it off.

Granderson also homered in the seventh off lefthander Phil Coke. Since going hitless Opening Day, Grandy has reached base in 19 consecutive games. Derek Jeter also reached a milestone in the third inning with his 1,000th career walk.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was more preoccupied with Freddy Garcia’s dismal showing as he failed to get beyond the second inning for the second straight start and had his record fall to 0-2 with a 12.51 ERA.

“I didn’t have my pitches,” Garcia said after the game. “It is frustrating for me.”

For Girardi, too.

“I don’t see the crispness in his pitches,” the manager said. “It seems all his pitches are down a few ticks [in velocity]. This is not what we saw in spring training.”

Garcia struggled to get above 80 miles per hour on the radar gun and has no bite on his slider or split-fingered fastball. Girardi would not say whether Garcia will make his next start. David Phelps, who pitched three scoreless innings of relief, just may get a promotion to the rotation.

“He’s our long man in the bullpen,” Girardi said. “The long man is always a candidate to start.”

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