Justin Verlander fans 14 as Yanks lose to Tigers
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DETROIT -- Before the game, Joe Girardi expressed confidence in his young righthander.
"He'll figure this out," Girardi said of a struggling Ivan Nova.
He sure didn't Monday night.
Though not producing the train wreck he did in his previous outing, the 25-year-old Nova stayed very much slump-ridden as the Yankees fell, 7-2, to the Tigers in front of a sellout crowd of 41,381 at Comerica Park.
The Yankees (63-45) saw their lead over the Orioles in the AL East cut to 5½ games.
The surging Tigers (59-50), behind Justin Verlander, won for the 23rd time in their last 34 games and for the ninth straight time at home.
Verlander (12-7), in snapping a personal two-game losing streak, allowed two runs -- none earned -- and eight hits in eight innings. He struck out a season-best 14, which tied a career best.
It was the most strikeouts by a Tigers pitcher against the Yankees since Jim Bunning struck out that many on June 20, 1958.
Verlander threw a season-high 132 pitches (96 strikes), with his 130th pitch of the night, fouled away by Ichiro Suzuki, reaching 100 mph. On pitch No. 132, an 82-mph curveball, Ichiro swung and missed to complete an 0-for-4 night and end a 12-game hitting streak to start his Yankees career.
Nova (10-6), meanwhile, is a mess and has been for nearly two months. He entered the game 1-3 with a 5.14 ERA in his previous seven starts, which included last Tuesday against the Orioles when he allowed a career-worst nine runs in five innings after being given a five-run lead in the first.
"It's really tough right now . . . I've given up so many runs the last two times but my confidence is up," Nova said. "I know I can do better than this. I have to go and work harder than I've been working and try to make the next one better."
Monday night offered few signs of emerging from that skid as Nova allowed seven runs and 11 hits -- he allowed 10 hits vs. the Orioles -- in 51/3 innings. Nova, who allowed solo home runs to Prince Fielder (No. 19) and Miguel Cabrera (No. 28), struck out five and didn't walk a batter.
"It's just location. You don't locate your pitches, they're going to hit them," Girardi said. "You leave breaking balls up or you don't locate your fastball on the corners, they're going to hit them."
Fielder opened the scoring in the second when he tore into an 86-mph 1-and-1 off-speed pitch from Nova and lined it over the wall in right for a 1-0 Tigers lead.
The Yankees, who went 3-for-14 with runners in scoring position and left nine, had a scoring chance in the third. Eric Chavez, the only person who solved Verlander this night with three hits, swung at the first pitch he saw and sent a double down the rightfield line. After Ichiro lined out to center, Russell Martin improved to 4-for-10 in his career against Verlander with a single to left, putting runners at the corners.
Robinson Cano led off the fourth with a single and stole second with two outs. Nick Swisher stranded him by striking out.
Cabrera padded Verlander's lead and his personal stats against the Yankees in the bottom of the fourth, hitting a monstrous home run to left-center to make it 2-0.
Cabrera's homer gave him at least one hit in 34 of 37 career games against the Yankees and made him, to that point, 39-for-132 (.371) with 14 homers and 34 RBIs.
The Yankees scored two unearned runs in the fifth to tie it, both runs coming after Verlander failed to hold Fielder's throw to first on a slow grounder by Granderson.
But Nova allowed three runs and five hits in the bottom of the fifth to make it 5-2.