(Not a look of confidence. Courtesy of The AP)
The great New York Yankee Mid-Summer Lineup Shuffle continued last night as they kicked off a series in Detroit against the Tigers. Eric Chavez was back in at third base, Russell Martin was back at catcher after a day off, Raul Ibanez got the start in left field, and Ichiro Suzuki got a day at DH. The top of the order remained the same as it had the last couple days, and they needed to produce something if the Yankees were going to beat Justin Verlander, a pitcher against whom they've had some success recently. With the struggling Ivan Nova on the mound, the lineup was probably going to have to score a few more runs than usual off of Verlander to have a chance.
- Nova looked pretty good getting Miguel Cabrera to ground into a DP to end the bottom of the 1st, but he threw a garbage changeup to Prince Fielder to start off the 2nd and from firsthand experience out in Milwaukee I can tell you that's a bad idea. Fielder smoked it for a solo HR and a 1-0 Detroit lead.
- Nova moved quickly and efficiently through the Detroit lineup after the Fielder HR, at least until it came back around to Cabrera in the 4th. He hit a solo HR to make it 2-0 Tigers and Nova responded by plunking Fielder before ending the inning with another DP ball.
- There wasn't much doing against Verlander through 4 innings, but Eric Chavez had his number. He doubled to right to lead off the 3rd and got stranded to end the inning, and doubled to left to start the top of the 5th.
- Chavez's teammates picked him up the second time around, with a little help from a Verlander error. Jeter singled him home to put the Yanks on the board, and Robinson Cano followed up with an RBI single of his own to tie the game at 2.
- Naturally, Nova imploded and gave the lead back with 5 straight singles in the bottom of the 5th. He hung fastballs, hung breaking balls, and when it was all said and done it was 5-2 Tigers.
- A bushel full of hits and a couple more runs later, it was curtains for Nova in the 6th and officially another horrible start for him. Joba relieved and got through the 7th, and actually looked good doing it (95-97 on the fastball, sharp slider), but that was an afterthought with a 5-run deficit.
- Verlander worked through the 8th, Jose Valverde handled the 9th, and that was all she wrote. The Yankees didn't score an earned run in the game.
- Chavez: 3-4, 2 2B, 1 R, 1 LOB. The only guy to really put multiple good at-bats and good contact up against Verlander. And the ankle looked good, which is a positive sign.
Jeter & Cano: Combined 4-9, 2 RBI, 4 LOB. The only other non-Chavez sources of offense.
- Nova: 5.1 IP, 11 H, 7 ER, 0 BB, 5 K. Nova only threw 68 pitches in 5+ innings, so it was clear that he was either hitting his spots or missing really badly, and save for the 3 guys he struck out after the Fielder HR it was more or less missing really badly all day, erry day. He can't locate anything right now, and his body language when things start to go bad indicates that he doesn't have the confidence or mental wherewithal to make the necessary changes and work through it. Very disheartening to watch Nova pitch right now.
- Everybody Else: 1-24, 1 R, 13 K, 17 LOB. Give Verlander props for being on his A-game. The guy isn't the defending AL Cy Young winner and MVP for nothing. But give the Yankee lineup their negative props (nops?) for not putting up a fight. Special shout-out to C-Grand and Teix, who combined to go 0-9 with 6 K and look like helpless children against Verlander.
1 down, 3 to go. Phil Hughes returns to the site of his first career complete game victory tonight, this time against Rick Porcello instead of Verlander. Hughes (13 ER, 11 BB, 32 K in 49.0 IP over his last 7 starts) has been pitching well lately while Porcello has struggled (18 ER, 39 H in 29 IP in his last 5). Should be a favorable matchup for New York, at least on paper.