Fiel-ing right at home
DETROIT (AP) – Prince Fielder figured a few hits were about to come his way.
Fielder connected for a go-ahead, three-run homer in the fifth inning and added a soaring, two-run shot in the seventh to lift the Detroit Tigers to an 8-3 win over the New York Yankees on Friday.
He hit his first two home runs of the season before a crowd of 45,051, the most to attend an opening day game in the 14 years of Comerica Park.
A few hours before the first pitch, Tigers manager Jim Leyland insisted he wasn’t worried about how poorly his team fared at the plate in its season-opening series.
“This team is going to hit,” Leyland said Friday morning. “If it doesn’t, I would be totally shocked.”
Fielder had the 25th multihomer game of his career – his third with the Tigers – and joined Kirk Gibson and Dmitri Young as the three Tigers who hit at least two homers and had at least five RBIs in a home opener.
Fielder had just two hits in Minnesota, where Detroit lost a three-game series after averaging fewer than three runs earlier in the week.
“I knew I was getting close,” Fielder said.
Fielder almost got another hit, and perhaps an additional RBI, but his liner to right was caught by former teammate Brennan Boesch as he slammed against the wall.
Doug Fister (1-0) allowed three runs on six hits – including Kevin Youkilis’ two-run homer in the fifth – over five innings. Drew Smyly pitched four perfect innings and struck out five for his first career save.
“I didn’t even know you got a save in a situation like that until someone told me after the game,” he said.
Besides the loss, the banged-up Yankees had another setback on a sun-splashed, cool afternoon in the Motor City.
Eduardo Nunez, filling in for injured shortstop Derek Jeter, was hit on his right biceps by Fister’s pitch in the fourth and left the game. X-rays were negative, a relief for him and the Yankees.
“I was scared it was broken,” he said. “The pain hurt a lot.”
Yankees manager Joe Girardi doesn’t expect Nunez to play Saturday at Detroit, saying he’s day to day.
Before the series opener, Girardi said Jeter may not come back to play for the Yankees until next month, adding he has never “thrown out a date” for his possible return. Jeter needs to go through a spring training-like schedule, according to Girardi, when he comes back from rehabilitating his broken left ankle.
The Yankees have five All-Stars on the disabled list, with Jeter joined by third baseman Alex Rodriguez (hip surgery), first baseman Mark Teixeira (wrist), outfielder Curtis Granderson (broken forearm) and pitcher Phil Hughes (back pain).
Hughes was originally scheduled to pitch Saturday for Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on Saturday, but had his outing shifted to Detroit for the second game.
Ivan Nova (0-1) gave up four runs and five hits over 4 2-3 innings.
“I don’t feel like I pitched that bad,” he said.
Boone Logan, the first batter to face Fielder in the fifth, allowed the slugger to put Detroit up 5-3.
Alex Avila, the second hitter to face Shawn Kelley in the sixth, homered deep into the right-field seats to put the Tigers ahead by three runs. Fielder tagged Kelley for another shot the next time he came up.
“They have a very good lineup, top to bottom,” Girardi said. “They have speed, they have power and they’re deep.”
In front of its fired-up fans, Detroit scored a run in the first and second innings and was held scoreless in the next two innings. The blue-and-orange clad fans groaned in the fifth when Fister allowed a run to score on a wild pitch and Youkilis homered to put the Yankees ahead 3-2.
Fielder gave them a reason to cheer in the home half of the inning and later in the game. It was the second-largest crowd in any game since leaving Tiger Stadium, trailing only a 45,280 total in a game against the White Sox in 2008.