Drew Smyly pitched with more nerve and savvy than reasonably expected for a rookie making his fourth big league start. At Yankee Stadium.
The Detroit Tigers left-hander fell behind in the count, then threw curveballs for strikes. He gave up an early home run, then retired 12 of the next 13 batters.
The only real acknowledgement of his inexperience was a quick hook from manager Jim Leyland. Oh, and after the final out, his teammates poured beer over his head in the shower to celebrate his first major league win and the end of their five-game losing streak in a 7-5 win over New York on Saturday.
”He really pitched like a veteran pitcher to be honest with you,” Leyland said. ”Not a lot of guys can do that. Guys pitch a long time and can’t do that.”
Miguel Cabrera homered and drove in three runs and Andy Dirks hit a three-run homer in the first off Freddy Garcia. Playing Delmon Young’s usual position of left field, Dirks made a pair of nice defensive plays, too, running down balls that looked like extra-base hits off the bat.
Young was placed on the restricted list earlier Saturday to be evaluated under baseball’s employee assistance program. He was arrested early Friday on a hate crime harassment charge following an encounter at his hotel during which police say he yelled anti-Semitic epithets and appeared intoxicated.
Smyly (1-0) gave up a leadoff single to Alex Rodriguez in the seventh and Leyland pulled him immediately for lefty Phil Coke rather than have him face the rest of the Yankees lineup a third time. Coke got Mark Teixeira to hit into a 1-6-3 double play. Smyly finished with two hits and two walks in six-plus innings. He struck out seven.
”He was mixing and throwing strikes on all his pitches,” said Andruw Jones, who struck out looking in his first at-bat. ”The first time I saw him, he fell behind and threw me three straight curveballs for a strike. Never thought in my mind he was going to throw me curveballs straight like that.”
Smyly acknowledged that he was nervous before the game, and caught himself staring at Derek Jeter before the game. But once it started, he was all business.
”The team was on a losing streak,” Smyly said. ”Hopefully this jump starts us.”
With two outs in the first inning and Austin Jackson on second, Yankees manager Joe Girardi ordered Prince Fielder intentionally walked. Dirks responded with his first homer of the season, a drive to right field on an 0-2 pitch.
The Tigers added three runs in the second on a double by Brennan Boesch and Cabrera’s easy, two-run single to right field for a 6-1 lead. Cabrera answered Curtis Granderson’s solo homer in the seventh with one of his own in the eighth.
”Whether we’re going to start hitting right now and tomorrow and forever on, I don’t know about that,” Leyland said. ”But we’ll hit and today was a real good day for us.”
Granderson had a bloop single to score a run off Jose Valverde in the ninth and scored on pinch-hitter Raul Ibanez’s double. Pinch-hitter Eric Chavez hit a deep fly to right to end it.
Nick Swisher hit solo homers in the first and ninth innings, one from each side of the plate.
Garcia (0-2) looked shaky right from the start. He started the game by walking Jackson, a player with barely more than 100 bases on balls in more than 1,300 plate appearances for his career. He actually went to a full count on his first three batters, and intentionally walked Fielder before Dirks’ home run.
”My velocity is down,” Garcia said. ”I don’t know what’s going to happen next. I have to keep working and do my stuff. I have to figure it out soon.”
He said Girardi has not talked to him about his status, ”but probably it happen tomorrow.”
Garcia gave up a leadoff single in the second before two flyball outs, but left before the game was an hour old. He was charged with six runs and gave up five hits in 1 2-3 innings, allowing seven of the 12 batters he faced to reach. He walked off to boos, with an ERA of 12.51 and his place in the Yankees’ rotation in jeopardy.
The Yankees’ starting pitching began the day 29th in the majors with an ERA of 5.95, and Garcia’s fiasco boosted it to 6.37, according to STATS LLC.
Notes: The Tigers replaced Young on the 25-man roster by recalling infielder Danny Worth from Triple-A Toledo. … Derek Jeter got the 1,000th walk of his career in the third inning. … Leyland won his 1,599th game as a manager, tying Tommy Lasorda for 17th on the career list. … Andy Pettitte will pitch Monday for Class A Tampa as he works toward joining New York’s rotation. The Yankees didn’t want him to have to pitch in cold weather.