Losers of five straight and seven of their last eight, the Tigers entered their matinee affair at Yankee Stadium at 10-10 on the season and desperately in need of a boost. Smyly delivered with his fourth consecutive strong start. He gave up just two hits and one run over six innings, while striking out seven to pick up his first victory as a major leaguer.
The Tigers staked Smyly to an early 6-1 lead, as they pounced on Yankees starter Freddy Garcia for three runs in the first and three more in the second. Andy Dirks got Detroit off and running with a three-run bomb to right field in that opening inning, then Brennan Boesch delivered an RBI double in the second and Miguel Cabrera followed with a two-RBI single.
Cabrera tacked on an insurance run in the sixth with his seventh home run of the year — a run that the Tigers wound up needing because Jose Valverde had all sorts of issues in the ninth inning closing the game out. The Tigers still held a 7-2 edge heading to the final frame, but Valverde coughed up three runs and New York had the tying run at the plate with two outs when Eric Chavez lifted a towering fly ball to the warning track in right. But Don Kelly was there to haul that shot in to secure the victory.
Phil Coke pitched the seventh for Detroit, allowing a solo home run, then Octavio Dotel tossed a scoreless eighth.
Tigers’ MVP: Smyly, without question. His ERA is now 1.23 and he easily could be 3-0 on the season. He’s yet to give up more than one run in any of his four starts and, with Rick Porcello and Max Scherzer struggling, has helped keep the Tigers from completely falling apart early in the year.
Tigers’ Goat: Jose Valerde (with an assist to Jim Leyland). Look, we know Valverde has major issues in non-save situations, and we saw it again on Saturday. Had Chavez gotten 10 more feet out of his fly ball, a sure win would have turned into a 7-7 tie and a likely heartbreaking loss in a hurry. Detroit has to solve its late-inning bullpen woes soon, possibly by giving more responsibility to Dotel, who’s yet to surrender a run.
What’s Next: With the losing streak stopped, Detroit goes for a series win on Sunday with Max Scherzer — and his 8.24 ERA — squaring off against C.C. Sabathia. Detroit then returns home Monday for a set with Kansas City.