Prince Fielder figured a few hits were about to come his way.
Fielder connected for a go-ahead, three-run homer in the fifth inning and added a soaring, two-run shot in the seventh to lift the Detroit Tigers to an 8-3 win over the New York Yankees on Friday.
He hit his first two home runs of the season before a crowd of 45,051, the most to attend an opening-day game in the 14 years of Comerica Park.
A few hours before the first pitch, Tigers manager Jim Leyland insisted he wasn’t worried about how poorly his team fared at the plate in their season-opening series.
”This team is going to hit,” Leyland said Friday morning. ”If it doesn’t, I would be totally shocked.”
Fielder had the 25th multihomer game of his career — his third with the Tigers — and joined Kirk Gibson and Dmitri Young as the three Tigers who hit at least two homers and had at least five RBI in a home opener.
Fielder had just two hits in Minnesota, where Detroit lost a three-game series after averaging fewer than three runs earlier in the week.
”I knew I was getting close,” Fielder said.
Fielder almost got another hit, and perhaps an additional RBI, but his liner to right was caught by former teammate Brennan Boesch as he slammed against the wall.
Doug Fister (1-0) allowed three runs on six hits — including Kevin Youkilis’ two-run homer in the fifth — over five innings. Drew Smyly pitched four perfect innings and struck out five for his first career save.
”I didn’t even know you got a save in a situation like that until someone told me after the game,” he said.
Besides the loss, the banged-up Yankees had another setback on a sun-splashed, cool afternoon in the Motor City.
Eduardo Nunez, filling in for shortstop Derek Jeter, was hit on his right biceps by Fister’s pitch in the fourth and left the game. X-rays were negative, a relief for him and the Yankees.
”I was scared it was broken,” he said. ”The pain hurt a lot.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi doesn’t expect Nunez to play Saturday at Detroit, saying he’s day to day.
Before the series opener, Girardi said Jeter may not come back to play for the Yankees until next month, adding he has never ”thrown out a date” for his possible return. Jeter needs to go through a spring training-like schedule, according to Girardi, when he comes back from rehabilitating his broken left ankle.
Jeter was hurt in the AL Championship Series opener against Detroit last October while trying to field a groundball.
The Yankees have five All-Stars on the disabled list with Jeter joined by third baseman Alex Rodriguez (hip surgery), first baseman Mark Teixeira (wrist), outfielder Curtis Granderson (broken forearm) and pitcher Phil Hughes (back pain).
”I feel sad about myself and my teammates, the injuries are coming to this team so fast,” Nunez said.
Ivan Nova (0-1) gave up four runs and five hits over 4 2/3 innings.
”I don’t feel like I pitched that bad,” he insisted.
Boone Logan, the first batter to face Fielder in the fifth, allowed the slugger to put Detroit up 5-3.
Alex Avila, the second hitter to face Shawn Kelley in the sixth, homered deep into the right-field seats to put the Tigers ahead by three runs. Fielder tagged Kelley for another shot the next time he came up.
”They have a very good lineup, top to bottom,” Girardi said. ”They have speed, they have power and they’re deep.”
In front of their fired-up fans, Detroit scored a run in the first and second innings and was held scoreless in the next two innings. The blue-and-orange clad fans groaned in the fifth when Fister allowed a run to score on a wild pitch and Youkilis homered to put the Yankees ahead 3-2.
Fielder gave them a reason to cheer in the home half of the inning and later on in Detroit’s first game since the San Francisco Giants finished off a World Series sweep.
”It was a short offseason for us, but I’m sure it was a long one for the fans because of the way things ended in the World Series,” Leyland said. ”That’s going to leave a bitter taste for them, so I’m sure they’ve been waiting for today.”
The Tigers drew the second-largest crowd in any game since leaving Tiger Stadium, trailing only the 45,280 total that watched them play the White Sox on July 26, 2008. … Hughes is scheduled to pitch Saturday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. … Tigers RHP Max Scherzer and Yankees RHP David Phelps will make their first starts of the season Saturday. … Teixeira said he’s still on schedule to return around May 1 and his injured right wrist is feeling better each day. … Smyly is Detroit’s first pitcher to earn a save after pitching at least four innings since Esteban Yan did in 2004. … Yankees RHP Hiroki Kuroda is expected to take his next turn in the rotation Monday at Cleveland after bruising the middle finger on his throwing hand Wednesday. … Smyly bounced back from his first outing in which he gave up two runs in 1 1/3 innings when Detroit opened with a 4-2 win at Minnesota. … Chien-Ming Wang was scheduled to pitch in an extended spring training camp for the Yankees in Tampa, but threw a simulated game instead due to the weather.