Too much Verlander for Yanks
For the second time in three games, the Yankees were dominated by one of the best pitchers in the major leagues. Two days after suffering a 1-0, two-hitter at the hands of the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez, the Yankees were contained for eight innings by the Tigers’ Justin Verlander and got off to a bumpy start on the trip with a 7-2 loss at Detroit’s Comerica Park.
Verlander, who won both the American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Awards last season, has not been a Yankee killer over the years. He entered Monday night’s game with a 4-4 career record against them and a 4.14 ERA. Those are hardly dominating numbers, but he was plenty dominating in this game.
The two runs he allowed the Yankees were essentially gifts. Verlander’s own error in the fifth inning when he dropped a relay at first base opened the door for the Yankees’ only real rally of the game. After flubbing what should have been the third out, Verlander gave up RBI singles to Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano to surrender a 2-0 lead.
The Tigers’ runs came on homers by their twin sluggers, Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera, off Ivan Nova, who had another rough outing. The long balls were the only hits off him over the first four innings, but the Tigers began stringing singles together in the fifth and sixth innings to score five runs and pull away from the Yankees.
In the fifth, Nova gave up five straight singles and a sacrifice fly that resulted in three runs. In the sixth, he gave up three more consecutive singles, and Detroit made it four in a row with a single off Joba Chamberlain. The result was two more runs.
The advantage was more than sufficient for Verlander, who gave up eight hits but walked only one batter and struck out 14, the most Ks for a Detroit pitcher in a game against the Yankees since 1958 by Hall of Famer Jim Bunning. Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira and Ichiro Suzuki struck out three times apiece. For Ichiro, whose 12-game hitting streak came to an end, they were the first strikeouts he had since joining the Yankees after 50 non-K plate appearances.
That was how dominant Verlander was in that one of the most difficult players to strike out went down on strikes three times. The Yankees had not lost to Verlander and scored in the first inning of each of his previous five starts against him. They had no such success this time. The one hitter to give Verlander a hard time was Eric Chavez, who had two doubles and a single. Jeter’s two hits raised his career average against Verlander to .361 in 36 at-bats.
The most worrisome part of Monday night’s loss was that of Nova, who is winless in his past five starts in which his record is 0-3 with two no-decisions and an 8.36 ERA in 28 innings. The righthander, who has been a consistent winner the past season and two-thirds, has one victory over his past nine starts. In those games, Nova is 1-4 with four no-decisions and a 5.94 ERA in 53 innings.
During his losing streak, Nova’s walk-to-strikeout ratio of 10 walks to 24 strikeouts is good, but he has allowed 44 hits, including six home runs, in 28 innings, which is by no means good. Nova in his brief career has shown an ability to pitch well with runners on base. In his prior start when he blew a 5-0 lead and gave up seven runs in one inning, the Orioles had 5-for-11 (.455) with runners in scoring position. Monday night, the Tigers were 3-for-4 (.750) in those situations off Nova.
It is a trend that needs to be reversed.