DETROIT — A Yankees starting pitcher eventually will make it through six innings this season.
It just hasn’t happened yet, with Luis Severino the latest to fail in the Yankees’ fourth game of the year, a 4-0 loss to Detroit in front of a sellout crowd of 45,049 Friday afternoon in the Tigers’ home opener at Comerica Park.
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“That’s what you worry about, managing those [middle] innings,” Joe Girardi said after Severino had to be lifted with none out and two on in the sixth. “You need to get some distance out of your starters.”
Detroit righthander Jordan Zimmermann, signed in the offseason to a five-year, $110-million deal, had no such issues.
Against a Yankees lineup without Alex Rodriguez, Carlos Beltran and Brian McCann — the first implementation of Girardi’s strategy to keep his veterans fresh — Zimmermann pitched seven innings on a cloudy, 38-degree day. The righthander, 13-10 with a 3.66 ERA last season with the Nationals, allowed two hits and three walks.
Zimmermann struck out three and did not allow a runner to get into scoring position until the seventh, when Mark Teixeira (1-for-3) walked with one out and went to second on a wild pitch.
“He just kind of silenced our bats,” Teixeira said of an offense that totaled 24 runs and 29 hits in the previous two games.
The Yankees finished with three hits and the Tigers 13.
“Everyone asked me all about last year; guys got fatigued at the end of the year,” Girardi said, anticipating criticism of the lineup. “What really made me do this was we got in late [Thursday], we played three days in a row, it’s early in the season. You’ve got 39-, 40-year-old [players]. And Mac caught three days in a row.”
Still, the story of the day was yet another Yankees starter unable to deliver length. And the not-able-to-get-to-six streak seems likely to continue Saturday when 35-year-old CC Sabathia, now the fifth starter, takes the mound against the potent Tigers.
Severino, a revelation a season ago when he came up in August and thrived down the stretch of a pennant race, wasn’t at his best in his 2016 debut, though he did well to keep damage to a minimum.
The 22-year-old righthander allowed 10 hits and three runs in five innings-plus.
“My slider was good but my location wasn’t good,” Severino said. “If the slider’s not working, you have to get your changeup or fastball going.”
Entering the game, Yankees starters had allowed 13 runs and 18 hits in 15 2⁄3 innings, with Masahiro Tanaka’s 5 2⁄3 innings in the season opener the longest any starter had gone.
“Every pitcher wants to go deeper into games,” Severino said. “I want to go the whole game but sometimes [it doesn’t happen].”
The Tigers scored in the first when leadoff man Ian Kinsler doubled to rightfield on an 0-and-2 slider and scored on Miguel Cabrera’s single to right, also on a slider. Cabrera homered in the seventh off righthander Luis Cessa, making his major-league debut against his former team, to give the Tigers a 4-0 lead.
Severino’s defense saved him in the third when, with a runner on first, Aaron Hicks made a full-out diving catch in the gap in right-center on Cabrera’s drive.
The Tigers tacked on two in the fourth, with the rally starting when Jacoby Ellsbury misplayed J.D. Martinez’s long fly to center into a single. That was more than enough for Zimmermann.
“He didn’t make any mistakes today,” said Starlin Castro, 7-for-12 in the first three games but 0-for-4 Friday. “Every pitch was good.”