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DET@NYY: Tigers fall to Yankees on passed ball

NEW YORK -- A walk-off passed ball was the capper to a long day for the Tigers in which everything seemed to go wrong.

Some of it is what happens when a team is sliding, and Friday's 7-6 Yankees comeback sent the Tigers to their fifth consecutive loss. The rest was just a day Detroit would like to forget. The Tigers weren't panicking afterward; last year's losing April taught them enough about rebounds to avoid putting too much into a .500 record after 20 games this season. But they weren't pretending it was nothing, either, on or off the field.

The on-field part alone was tough to grasp.

"We're in a funk right now," Justin Verlander said. "We've got to find a way out of it."

Catcher Alex Avila tried to reconcile it with the lessons from last year.

"Obviously we're upset about the way we're playing," he said, "but I think we all know what we're capable of and believe we'll get there."

Three of the five losses have been one-run games, one each against three different opponents in three different fashions. The Tigers' lone win in their last eight games was a one-run decision Verlander earned over the Rangers last Saturday night.

Verlander took a lot of the blame for Friday on himself. Never mind that this is the one American League ballpark left where he has yet to win. This was the situation where he thrived last year, 16-3 after a Tigers loss. He's the stopper, and he takes that seriously.

Give Verlander six runs and he wins. The only time he didn't do that last year when the Tigers scored that many was a May 24 no-decision against the Rays, and most of those runs came after he was knocked out. Detroit still won that game, even though he didn't.

Verlander had two separate leads Friday, and the Yankees erased both of them. The latter came after he was gone, but that didn't make much consolation for him, because it was only a one-run lead when he left.

"To be able to come back a couple of times on this guy and score some runs is not easy to do," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said.

One of those runs was an unearned tally when left fielder Don Kelly lost Raul Ibanez's sixth-inning line drive in the lights for a two-base error.

"Our team goes out and gives us six runs against a guy like [Ivan] Nova tonight, you've got to make that work," Verlander said. "Obviously it wasn't easy out there. It was cold and everything, but man, they battled. It's a shame we didn't win."

Avila tried to take a lot of the blame. The walk-off passed ball was charged to him, though it was a pitch from Brayan Villarreal that missed the strike zone and put Alex Rodriguez in a 3-0 count. Even if Avila blocks it, the count isn't in their favor.

"I didn't have a very good tonight, both sides of the spectrum," Avila said. "I've just got to put it behind me."

Manager Jim Leyland didn't pin it on anyone. He chalked it to a good team in a bad stretch. He was among the many Tigers officials who had to deal with Delmon Young's early-morning arrest outside the team hotel, though he wasn't talking about it all day. He had his hands full just handling the on-field stuff Friday night.

"We swung the bats much better tonight," Leyland said. "Normally when you score six, you're supposed to win. But when you're in a little funk, sometimes it doesn't work like that. When you're going good, you're winning 2-1, 1-0, 8-7. When you're not, it's just the opposite."

When you're not, rallies like Friday happen, not only without a hit with one ball put in play in four batters against Villarreal, who walked Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson with one out. Jeter advanced to third on ball four to Granderson once the pitch skipped in the dirt and rolled to the edge of the Yankees' dugout.

"It hit the dirt, hit off my glove and then hit off of [home-plate umpire] Joe [West] back there, right off his leg," Avila said. "I did what I could do to try to knock it down. It just hit the dirt and right off of Joe's leg and kind of ricocheted towards their dugout."

With the sacrifice fly in play for Rodriguez, Avila and Villarreal planned on challenging him with fastballs. They missed the zone on all three, the last of which got past Avila and rolled to the backstop for the passed ball.

"He threw three straight fastballs," Avila said. "I was set up right down the middle. It was like, 'Here it is. I'm going to beat you with my best stuff. If you beat me, oh well.' And, you know, obviously the result was they beat us."

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