NEW YORK -- Freddy Garcia is long removed from blowing fastballs by hitters, but he found a second life as a soft-tosser who hit the corners exceptionally. Those days, too, seem to be fading further and further into the rear-view mirror.
Loud boos showered the veteran as he was sent to a second-inning exit on Saturday, and Garcia may have pitched himself out of New York's rotation with his latest clunker, hit hard for six runs as the Tigers defeated the Yankees, 7-5, at Yankee Stadium.
"I'm really frustrated," Garcia said. "I try to do everything I can, but I'm just struggling. For me, it's really hard. I like to compete, and I'm not competing right now. It's frustrating."
New York was stifled by rookie left-hander Drew Smyly, who took advantage of the early lead that Detroit built off Garcia and held the Yankees to a run on two hits over six-plus innings, posting his first Major League victory.
The Yankees rallied with three runs in the ninth inning off Jose Valverde, including Nick Swisher's second home run of the game, to bring the tying run to the plate. Pinch-hitter Eric Chavez's deep fly ball died in front of the right-field wall for the final out.
"Overall, a great comeback," Swisher said. "We're 15 feet away from tying that game. [Smyly] did a good job for them today, but we've got to come back tomorrow and win the series."
Yankees manager Joe Girardi will have decisions to make on Sunday, saying that he needs a day to sleep on his calls. Garcia could be heading to the disabled list, as Girardi said that Garcia's pitches are lacking what he showed this spring.
"We've got to figure out what's going on," Girardi said. "He just doesn't have the crispness, the velocity is down a little on all of his pitches, and I think that's why it has been a struggle.
"... I can't tell you exactly what we're going to do. I'm not going to come to any rash decisions. Obviously we're trying to evaluate what's going on here."
Girardi was late for his postgame news conference and said that he had been speaking with Garcia.
"He understands. He knows what's going on," Girardi said. "He's been around the block, and he sees that his fastball is down a few ticks, slider, curveball, split, all of his pitches. That makes a difference."
Girardi said that he has wondered if Garcia is ailing, but he wasn't sure if the Yankees would send Garcia for tests. The pitcher has not complained of any issues.
"I feel fine, man," Garcia said. "When you're struggling, you're struggling. You go out there and try to make it happen, and it doesn't happen. You've got to continue to battle and work, that's all."
Garcia only recorded five outs in his last effort at Fenway Park before he was rescued by 15 unanswered runs against the beleaguered Red Sox bullpen, but that type of rally can't be counted on every time.
Andy Dirks delivered the big first-inning blow, turning on an 0-2 splitter that didn't split and depositing the batting-practice offering over the right-field wall for a three-run homer.
"I got this guy, and I don't make the pitch," Garcia said. "That's frustrating."
Things didn't go better for Garcia in a loud second inning when nearly every ball was hit well. Brennan Boesch smacked a run-scoring double and Miguel Cabrera followed with a two-run single, and the Yankees had seen enough of Garcia -- for at least today, and possibly longer.
"I don't know what decision they're going to make," Garcia said. "We'll see [Sunday].
New York's rotation has been a problem through the first 20 games, with the club amassing only five quality starts as a group, but Garcia (12.51 ERA) and Phil Hughes (7.88 ERA) have been the worst offenders.
Andy Pettitte is expected to claim a rotation spot in the middle of May, but the Yankees may not wait that long. David Phelps, who pitched three innings of scoreless relief on Saturday, may be an option; Triple-A right-hander D.J. Mitchell could be another.
"Anytime you have a long man, he's a candidate to be a starter," Girardi said, when asked about Phelps. "Your long man is someone who is a sixth starter all the time in the bullpen."
Smyly pitched into the seventh inning, permitting only Swisher's first-inning solo homer and one other hit, an Alex Rodriguez single in the seventh.
"He really had good stuff. He really pitched well," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He was really calm. And they hadn't seen him before, that always helps, I'm a big believer. But I don't want to take anything away from him. He was terrific today."
Curtis Granderson homered off Phil Coke in the seventh and added an RBI single in the three-run ninth.
New York's bullpen turned in solid work behind Garcia's short effort, whipping 7 1/3 innings of one-run, two-hit ball between Clay Rapada, Phelps and Cody Eppley. They were once again up to the task of a job they've had to perform far too often.
"It just speaks volumes to the quality of arms we have in our bullpen, the job that we've done all year," Phelps said. "You saw tonight, we were 10 or 15 feet away from having a tie ballgame. It's what we're supposed to do, go in and give our team a chance to win. We've been doing a great job of it so far."