Yankees 5, Tigers 3
El Duque won for the second time in two starts since returning to the major leagues, beating the Detroit Tigers 5-3 Saturday night.
Hernandez allowed three runs and six hits in five innings, striking out six and walking three. Last weekend, he beat Tampa Bay 10-3 in his first major league game since 2002.
“It has helped a lot that my teammates are so happy about my return,” Hernandez said through a translator. “I feel good, but I just need to keep working on my location so that I don’t keep throwing 100 pitches in five innings.”
The Cuban right-hander, believed to be 38, had shoulder surgery in May 2003 to repair a small tear in his rotator cuff, and he was brought up to patch a rotation missing Brown (bad back) and Mussina (sore elbow).
“It’s great to see him back—I know how hard he has worked to get here again,” teammate Jason Giambi said. “It’s going to be huge if he can pitch like this for us down the stretch.”
Hernandez’s fastball topped out in the high 80s, but he baffled Tigers batters with an assortment of breaking pitches, including a roundhouse curve that was clocked as low as 56 mph.
“I don’t think he’s the same velocity-wise, but he’s smart,” Tigers manager Alan Trammell said. “He knows what he’s doing out there, so even if he doesn’t come at you with the same fastball as he once did, he’s very effective.”
Gary Sheffield homered and drove in three runs for the Yankees before a crowd of 41,857, the third-largest in Comerica Park’s five-year history. Detroit, which matched its 2003 wins total Friday, lost for just the third time in nine games.
Gary Knotts (5-4) dropped to 1-3 in his last five starts, giving up four runs and 10 hits in 5 2-3 innings. He is 0-3 with a 11.48 ERA in his career against the Yankees.
“I thought I had good stuff and was making good pitches,” he said. “They have an All-Star lineup and they are going to get their hits.”
The game was delayed slightly in the second inning when the Comerica Park emergency buzzer and lights went off. A recorded announcement said there was an emergency in the stadium, but the scoreboard quickly informed fans that it was a false alarm. Hernandez, who was on the mound at the time, said he didn’t hear the alarm.
Ruben Sierra tied the game in the fifth when he led off with a 415-foot line drive to right field, his ninth homer this season. Derek Jeter beat out a two-out infield single and scored on Sheffield’s shot down the left-field line.
Dmitri Young’s grounder through Rodriguez’s legs at third base—ruled an RBI single—pulled Detroit to 4-3 in the bottom half.
In the sixth, the Tigers got the first two runners on, but Giambi snared Munson’s line drive down the line, and one out later, Rodriguez did the same to Omar Infante.
“Giambi’s play was the game,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said. “Munson smoked that, and I couldn’t even see the ball from my seat in the dugout, but I knew from the crowd’s reaction that he got it.”
After the game, Munson was still disappointed.
“I thought it was down the line,” he said. “It was almost by him and he just reached back and snagged it. Then Omar hits the ball hard and A-Rod makes a pretty good play. We lost a pretty good chance to score there.”
Sheffield added an RBI single in the seventh.
Rodriguez’s hit in the first was New York’s first single of the series. In Thursday’s opener, all five hits by the Yankees were homers, and Sheffield doubled Friday for New York’s only hit. … Detroit got its 43rd win Friday in its 89th game. The prior record for a team matching its previous year’s win total in a 162-game season was set by the 1989 Orioles (100 games), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. … Yankees CF Kenny Lofton dropped Ivan Rodriguez’s fly ball in the seventh for what was originally ruled an error, but changed to a single after the game.