DETROIT — Jacoby Ellsbury saw the hard-hit ball off the bat of J.D. Martinez and made, he thought, the right move in starting to charge back.

Then came a surprise on the breezy afternoon.

“It kind of just died out,” the centerfielder said.

The ball dropped in front of Ellsbury for a one-out single in the fourth, sparking a two-run inning that gave the Tigers a three-run lead in an eventual 4-0 victory.

“It just went straight down. Unfortunately, I didn’t have enough time to recover on it,” he said. “I got a great jump on it.”

On a day Tigers righthander Jordan Zimmermann made few mistakes, the 3-0 lead might as well have been 10-0.

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The pitcher victimized by the play, Luis Severino, did not blame Ellsbury.

“Martinez hit the ball hard,” Severino said. “It was a base hit.”

CC ready to go

CC Sabathia, who struggled during spring training but still emerged victorious in the fifth starter battle against Ivan Nova, will make his debut in less than ideal conditions Saturday afternoon. The forecast calls for a chance of snow and a first-pitch temperature of 31 degrees.

“I don’t mind,” Sabathia said with a smile. “I’ve been pitching for a long time in this weather.”

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Sabathia, 35, spent the first 7½ years of his career with Cleveland. The lefthander, who spent time in alcohol rehab in the offseason and had to beat out Nova to stay in the rotation, is anticipating this first start of the season as much as any in his career.

“I’m excited,” Sabathia said. “It’s always fun, the first one. Hopefully it’s a good one.”

A little short

It will be particularly important for Sabathia to give the Yankees length Saturday. Joe Girardi said Nova, who pitched four scoreless innings Wednesday night, won’t be an option Saturday, nor will Luis Cessa, who pitched two innings Friday in his major-league debut. Girardi said he’ll have Johnny Barbato, Kirby Yates and Chasen Shreve available for middle-inning duty if necessary.