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Published: Sunday, 5/11/2008

Bonderman struggles, Tigers lose

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

DETROIT - The struggling, strong-willed pitcher.

The sage, grizzled manager.

The wide-eyed rookie.

Each with different perspectives and at different points in their lives, all hoping for the same thing - for the Tigers to start winning again.

Detroit's 5-2 loss to the New York Yankees yesterday - its fifth in seven games - was frustrating for pitcher Jeremy Bonderman, perplexing for manager Jim Leyland, and soured an otherwise sweet day for rookie Matt Joyce.

Bonderman (2-4) fought himself for four-plus innings, allowing five runs on six hits with four walks. He barely made it out of the first frame, when he gave up a homer to Derek Jeter and later walked in a run before inducing a double-play grounder.

"Right now I'm letting things bother me that shouldn't be bothering me," Bonderman said. "I walk a guy, I get flustered. I've got to find a way to let things go."

Bonderman walked two in the first inning and two in the fourth. One of those walks scored in the fourth on Wilson Betemit's double.

Jeter, who'd gone 128 at-bats without a homer this season, singled in the fifth and scored on Bobby Abreu's double. Jason Giambi doubled off reliever Bobby Seay to drive in Abreu - a run that was charged to Bonderman.

Leyland could see Bonderman was having problems early, and nearly replaced him with Seay in the first inning. The manager said his starting pitcher was having location issues and his arm was dragging on his slider.

What puzzled Leyland was the Tigers' inept offense.

"I'm dumb, I guess, because I was excited about our lineup, really excited about our lineup, and their starter shut us down," Leyland said.

Yankees pitcher Darrell Rasner, called up from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre May 4, had little trouble with Detroit's stacked lineup. And when he and reliever Kyle Farnsworth ran into a problem in the seventh - the Tigers opened the inning with two singles and an RBI double from Gary Sheffield - Edgar Renteria, Ivan Rodriguez and pinch hitter Placido Polanco failed against Farnsworth.

As Leyland later said, any team, let alone the Tigers, was going to have a tough time erasing a three-run deficit against Joba Chamberlain and Mariano Rivera. Chamberlain pitched a perfect eighth, and Rivera notched his 10th save in as many chances.

"The seventh inning was a killer," Leyland said. "If we pick up those other two [runs] there, maybe, maybe it's a different ball game."

Leyland said he liked his lineup for today's series finale against the Yankees and pitcher Andy Pettitte, but he's not going there. Not the way yesterday turned out.

The one player not in today's lineup, Joyce, hit his first major league homer yesterday off Rasner in the first. Abreu, apparently losing the ball in the right-field sun, was charging in while the ball was sailing out.

"He juked me," Joyce said with a smile. "I was about to run back in the dugout."

Joyce, 23 just called up from Toledo on Monday, said his father had never seen him hit one of his 37 minor-league home runs. Yet, dad was in the sold-out audience of 44,580 at Comerica Park for his son's blast against the Yankees.

Joyce slipped while fielding Abreu's double in the fifth, which enabled Jeter to score. But he otherwise had two hits yesterday, made a fine catch in left field, and is batting .267. "I'm still on cloud nine, enjoying every moment," Joyce said. "But ultimately, you want to win."

NOTES: Sheffield tied Rogers Hornsby and Harmon Killebrew for 33rd place all-time with 1,584 RBIs, surpassing Al Kaline. Yesterday's crowd was the second-largest in Comerica Park history and the park's largest nonopening day gathering. Joyce's homer snapped the Tigers' seven-game homerless streak at Comerica Park, which equaled the park's record drought set in 2001.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

jvardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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