It was the third consecutive game the Yankees have leaned on Pettitte to pitch following a loss, and for the second time, Pettitte was not able to stop the streak. Placido Polanco homered twice for the Tigers and Marcus Thames also went deep as Pettitte allowed a season-high five earned runs for the Yankees, who have now lost five out of seven.
Pettitte had limited the Tigers to one run through the first four innings, with Detroit pushing a run across on an Edgar Renteria RBI groundout in the second. In the fifth, Renteria laced a one-out single before Thames connected on his second home run of the year, a two-run shot onto the netting above Monument Park in left field.
"They've got a tough lineup," Pettitte said. "There's definitely some strong right-handed hitters in that lineup. Obviously, they made some adjustments during the course of the game and I probably didn't make the right adjustments."
Working toward an eventual total of 92 pitches, Pettitte began to labor in the sixth inning as Polanco added his first homer, a solo shot to left, leading off the inning. After two hits, Pettitte induced a much-needed double play from Miguel Cabrera, but Carlos Guillen legged out an infield single to third base that scored Gary Sheffield with Detroit's fifth run.
Pettitte would escape the inning by picking Guillen off first base, finished for the evening and left to wonder why his usually reliable two-seamer has been running back across the white of home plate, making it a dangerous pitch to throw in his last two starts.
He said he will have to check on his mechanics over the next four days, but certainly if there were a couple of offerings he'd like to yank back, he knew which ones he'd go for.
"That's the way the game is," Pettitte said. "You make a mistake and they're going to make you pay for it."
Pettitte worked six innings, scattering seven hits while walking one and striking out three. The loss was a rare one with the Tigers in the Bronx -- it was the first time Pettitte was defeated by the Tigers at Yankee Stadium since July 20, 2000, having fared 5-0 with a 1.93 ERA between.
The book on Tigers right-hander Jeremy Bonderman, according to Derek Jeter, is to get to him early before he can figure out his command. Sticking to that tactic, the Yankees put two first-inning runs on the board. Johnny Damon led off with a double and Jeter singled before a walk and a flyout loaded the bases with one out.
Jason Giambi lifted a sacrifice fly to left to score the first run and Melky Cabrera stroked a run-scoring single, one of two hits on the evening, to give New York an early 2-0 lead.
But that was the last rally the Yankees would manage against Bonderman, who settled in nicely -- particularly after getting an earful from manager Jim Leyland when he had bases loaded and none out in the first inning.
New York managed just two hits through the next eight innings and did not get a runner as far as second base the rest of the game, making the offensive void left by Rodriguez's and Posada's respective absences seem all the more striking.
"Obviously, I think we're capable of scoring a lot more runs," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "We've got to get it done."
Meanwhile, Polanco connected for his second home run facing Yankees right-hander Kyle Farnsworth leading off the seventh for the final blow, finishing his third career multi-homer game.
Bonderman threw a season high 7 2/3 innings before Clay Rapada finished off the last four outs.
"He pitched well," Jeter said of Bonderman. "He's got good stuff and he always pitches well. The thing with him is you hope he struggles with his control. If he's throwing strikes, you can't be too patient."
Jeter said that sooner or later, the Yankees would have to figure out a way to cope.
"You have no choice," Jeter said. "Injuries happen to everyone. You don't sit around and feel sorry for yourself. Obviously, you wish they didn't all happen at the same time."