DETROIT (AP) - When a team is in a slump, strange things start to happen.
On Monday night, the Detroit Tigers lost because their ace felt too good.
Justin Verlander, hitting 100 mph, allowed three runs in the first two innings and the Tigers lost their seventh straight game, 5-3 to the New York Yankees.
``That's the best I've felt all season,' Verlander said. ``My fastball was so strong that I couldn't get it down into the zone. I was missing everything up and out of the strike zone, which got me behind in the counts and got me in trouble.'
The Tigers rallied to tie the game at 3, aided by a pair of homers from Alex Avila, but then couldn't rely on their other star pitcher. Closer Jose Valverde gave up two runs in the top of the ninth before Mariano Rivera finished things off for the Yankees.
``Jose just hasn't pitched enough, and he wasn't sharp tonight,' Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. ``That's the problem when you have lost seven games in a row - you don't get much work for your closer. He hadn't worked since Thursday, and he didn't have his good stuff tonight.'
With runners on first and second and one out in the ninth, Nick Swisher singled up the middle and Mark Teixeira scored from second. Alex Rodriguez added another run when he scored from third on a passed ball by Avila.
Swisher said that he was fired up by the news of the death of Osama bin Laden.
``Those guys are out there fighting for our freedom and giving us the opportunity to be able to play this game. With all the excitement last night in the city of New York, obviously we wish we could have been there to experience that,' Swisher said. ``But I think today was definitely just one of those positive days. Everything just kind of seemed like things were going to go our way. It was nice to be that guy in that position.'
Joba Chamberlain (2-0) got the win by pitching a scoreless eighth, and Rivera worked a perfect ninth for his 11th save.
Verlander was lucky to hold the Yankees to two runs in the first. He allowed a 400-foot double to Jorge Posada with the bases loaded, and Swisher would have scored easily from first if the ball hadn't bounced over the wall in left-center.
Eduardo Nunez, playing in place of an ailing Robinson Cano, hit an RBI double for the Yankees in the second.
Verlander went six innings, allowing three runs and eight hits. He walked four, struck out eight and threw 127 pitches, three short of his career high.
Curtis Granderson went hitless in his return to Comerica Park. Granderson was traded from the Tigers to the Yankees in December 2009. He was injured when the Yankees visited Detroit last year.
Granderson did draw two walks, including a 12-pitch effort to start the ninth that set the tone for the inning against Valverde. Granderson was caught stealing when he overslid second base, but the Yankees kept the rally going.
Teixeira followed with a walk and Rodriguez reached on an infield single when third baseman Brandon Inge couldn't make a play on his chopper. Swisher then singled to center for the go-ahead run.
New York starter Bartolo Colon went seven innings, allowing three runs and seven hits with seven strikeouts.
NOTES: The game was played 72 years to the day after Lou Gehrig's streak of 2,130 consecutive games ended in Detroit. ... The Yankees said tests on RHP Phil Hughes (right shoulder inflammation) came back negative for any circulatory or vascular issues. ... Detroit DH Victor Martinez (strained right groin) began a rehabilitation assignment Monday night with Triple-A Toledo. ... The Yankees have signed LHP Brad Halsey to a minor league contract. He is working out at extended spring training. ... New York RHP Luis Ayala (strained back muscle) has joined Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre after pitching Saturday at extended spring training. ... After the game, the Tigers optioned 2B Will Rhymes to Toledo and recalled 2B Scott Sizemore.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved