Chris Capuano bent down with his hands on his knees. He looked at the dirt that surrounded him on the Yankee Stadium mound.
Capuano, looking distraught, didn't bother to watch the ball as it carried off the bat of the Tigers' J.D. Martinez into centerfield Wednesday night. Capuano later said he thought he had served up a tiebreaking home run with two outs in the sixth inning. It likely would mean the end of what was building up to be a brilliant start.
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However, Jacoby Ellsbury leaped high against the wall and made a brilliant catch. A suddenly excited Capuano pumped his fist, then embraced catcher Brian McCann. The inning was over. Capuano's night wasn't.
The lefty struck out the first two batters of the seventh by mixing speeds with his changeup, sinker and slider. After allowing two straight singles, however, Capuano was lifted.
When he left with runners on first and third, the crowd of 40,067 saluted him with a standing ovation. Righthander Adam Warren induced a groundout to end the inning.
"The crowd's response was pretty special to me," Capuano said after the Yankees beat the Tigers, 5-1. It was Capuano's third start with the Yankees. It was also his best.
In 62/3 innings, Capuano allowed one unearned run, five hits and one walk. Never known as an overpowering pitcher, he struck out eight because of the effectiveness of his off-speed stuff. He also located the ball well: Of his 101 pitches, 67 were strikes.
"He does know how to pitch," manager Joe Girardi said. "He knows how to change speeds. He knows how to move the ball in and out. He used his curveball and changeup extremely well tonight."
Detroit scored its run in the first inning, when leadoff batter Rajai Davis reached base on an error by Derek Jeter. Davis scored on a sacrifice fly by Miguel Cabrera.
Capuano, who began the season as a reliever with the Red Sox and was acquired last month from the Rockies for cash considerations, lowered his ERA with the Yankees to 2.84.
The 35-year-old said his new digs have been the source of a new motivation.
"Nothing prepares you for coming to New York," said Capuano, a onetime Met. "Putting on the pinstripes is an unbelievable feeling. It's exciting every day."
Girardi had said it wasn't imperative for Capuano to pitch deep into the game. Capuano did it anyway . . . with a little help from Ellsbury.
"That play was exhilarating. I thought the ball was going out," Capuano said. "Every start, going deep into a game is a goal. I'm trying to do the best I can. To go out and pitch for this team is more than I could've hoped for."