Missed opportunities doom Yankees

DETROIT -- Laugh it off if you want, but the New York Yankees' sad-sack loss Monday night in Detroit was anything but funny.

Worse, there could be more like it if some of the Yankees' reserves -- pressed into starting duty because of injuries -- don't start coming through or, better yet, the Yankees don't go outside the organization and make a move.

Yes, we know it's baseball and there's another game tomorrow.

But often you can look at a season and remember those games that got away.

That's the only way to look at the Yankees' 5-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers in front of a crowd of 34,365 at Comerica Park.

It's not about panicking. Most teams would love to be where the Yankees are sitting at this point in the season. It's just that the Yankees (21-10) will be in a real battle all season long with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Giving away games at any point of the season is never good, especially when the division title or the postseason isn't a given.

"We had a few missed opportunities tonight," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

The Yankees, for the first time this season, looked thin, weak and not potent. The Tigers' pitchers didn't seem afraid of the lineup at all. It was like they didn't watch the video of the first two games in Boston, when the Bombers destroyed the Red Sox with their bats.

"It is what it is," Girardi said. "We're a little beat-up.

"It's something we have to deal with. Other teams go through it. So we still had opportunities. We just didn't get it done."

For sure, there will be nights when the other team is simply better. That wasn't the case here.

The Tigers (18-14) came into the game after a 1-4 road trip. Their starter, Dontrelle Willis, was scratched because of the flu.

Some guy named Brad Thomas started instead. Somehow he allowed only two runs despite giving up three walks and three hits in three innings.

The Tigers' first two runs were unearned as a result of a throwing error by Alex Rodriguez in the first inning. "Yeah, it hurt, because it would have been the last out of the inning," said starter and losing pitcher Sergio Mitre.

At the plate, the Yankees blew chances to score all night, especially with runners on third and less than two outs.

In the second inning, with two on and no outs, the Yankees came up empty.

In the sixth inning, with runners on first and third and one out, Marcus Thames popped out to second. The Yankees would wind up with nothing again after Randy Winn flied out to end the inning. "You're looking for a ball up," Girardi said. "He got a ball up, maybe just a little too much up. You're looking to hit a sac fly, so you're not looking for a ball down."

In the eighth inning, the Yankees would push across two runs to make it 5-4. But they left the tying run on third when Winn popped up to third and Derek Jeter was robbed of a hit to end the inning.

"We couldn't [come through]," Jeter said. "But they pitched well, made some big pitches."

And in Jeter's case, a big play. Magglio Ordonez took an extra-base hit away from Jeter with a diving catch in right field. It would have at the very least tied the game. Instead, it was a game-saving catch.

"I thought it was a hit," said Jeter, who was 0-for-5. "I really don't look at where people are playing when I'm hitting.

"He made a good catch. He was positioned perfectly."

Thames and Winn, though, have to come through for the Yankees. Of course, most of the heavy lifting will be left for the mashers in the lineup. But in Baseball 101, getting a runner in from third with less than two outs has to be carried out.

"You have to come in and try to step up, pick up the slack and do your part," Thames said. "I think we have that group of guys who can do that. It's just one game."

It cost the Yankees last night, and quite possibly could again down the line.

Rob Parker is a columnist for ESPNNewYork.com.

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