Youk goes deep, but Yanks can't contain Prince, Tigers
After Nova's inefficient day, 'pen allows three shots in opener in Detroit
DETROIT -- The first of Prince Fielder's homers was hit with such force, the hissing bottle rocket pelted a fan in the chest and dropped him to the concourse. The second was crushed so convincingly, no outfielder felt the need to move more than a step.
It was an impressive power display, but the Yankees were in no mood to applaud Fielder's five-RBI day. Their fortunes at Comerica Park have not improved much from last year's American League Championship Series, as they were handed an 8-3 defeat by the Tigers on Friday.
"You don't make too much out of one start or a couple outings," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "Sometimes guys get off to slow starts, sometimes guys get off to fast starts. You really have to look at their body of work over the course of a year."
Thus far, you'd say things are starting slowly. The Yankees' playoff hopes ended here last October in a four-game sweep, and fielding an injury-depleted lineup for the first four contests to begin 2013, victories have already proven to be in short supply.
The list of the Yanks' walking wounded grew on Friday when Eduardo Nunez was drilled in the right biceps by an 88-mph Doug Fister fastball. Nunez howled in pain and feared he had broken his arm, but X-rays were negative and the shortstop is being considered day to day.
That is a rare tidbit of good news for the Yanks, who used Jayson Nix at shortstop for the rest of the afternoon and may consider trying to squeak by with catcher Francisco Cervelli as an emergency infielder until Nunez is ready to return.
"I feel very sad about all my teammates, you know?" Nunez said. "The injuries [are] coming to this team so fast."
Perhaps the Yankees were showing signs of fatigue following a quick turnaround from Thursday's game against the Red Sox in New York, although they couldn't have drawn much energy from Ivan Nova's ineffective start.
Nova vowed that he wanted to attack the strike zone, hoping to wipe clean the memories of a second half that saw him left off last year's playoff rosters, but the right-hander showed flashbacks of that same inefficiency in tossing just 53 of 96 pitches for strikes.
"It's the first one. Of course you want to start the season in a good way," Nova said. "Personally, I don't feel like I pitched that bad. I was throwing a lot of balls and getting into too deep counts, but it's the first start of the year."
Girardi said that Nova's collection of three-ball counts -- six of them his first time through the order -- escalated his pitch count in a hurry.
"He had to work really hard to get to where he was at," Girardi said. "When you get in those long counts, those 3-1 and 3-2, they're going to be able to put some pretty good swings on you and your pitch count is going to grow quickly. That's what happened today."
Detroit built a quick two-run lead as Miguel Cabrera notched a run-scoring fielder's choice in the first inning and Andy Dirks came around to score after a leadoff walk to open the second inning, driven home by Omar Infante's single to right field.
The Yankees' offense showed signs of life in the fifth, claiming the lead as Brett Gardner raced home on a Fister wild pitch and Kevin Youkilis slugged his first home run in a New York uniform, a two-run shot to left-center field.
Youkilis became the 67th player to homer in both a Yankees and Red Sox uniform, but it offered just a short-lived advantage. Nova allowed a single, a walk and a hit-by-pitch in the fifth inning, exiting with two on and two out.
"I was trying to attack the strike zone," Nova said. "I felt like the stuff was there, but I couldn't get it done."
Neither could Boone Logan, who relieved and watched Fielder mash his second pitch on a rope into the right-field seats.
"I was just attacking them," Logan said. "First-pitch strike with the slider, and then I was trying to go down and away with the heater. The pitch was way out of the zone, but it looked like he was sitting hard, and he was able to get to it."
Alex Avila added a solo blast in the sixth off Shawn Kelley, and Fielder unloaded on a majestic two-run shot off Kelley in the seventh to confirm that the rout was indeed on.
"I was just excited to put our team ahead," Fielder said. "Anytime you get some runs for your team, it's always exciting."
Drew Smyly pitched four innings of scoreless relief behind Fister for a breezy save, the first of his career.
Already tiring of a theme of questioning that has proven common early in this season, Girardi again rejected the suggestion that his team should just try to hold the fort until reinforcements arrive from the disabled list.
"[The goal is] to win. Bottom line," Girardi said. "I've been asked this question a few times. It's to win games. I still believe we have a team that can go out and play well and win games. That's our goal."