"He's not giving us the distance that we need," Girardi said. "It's frustrating for him and it's frustrating for us. This game is not easy and this game is a game of adjustments. You have to be able to make adjustments on the fly."
It hasn't been all bad for the 23-year-old Kennedy, who retired seven of the first eight Tigers he faced, and Girardi maintains that whatever problems Kennedy is experiencing are fixable. But after he went 1-0 with a 1.89 ERA in three September starts, the right-hander remains winless through his first six starts of the campaign.
"I felt like tonight was going to be different," said Kennedy, who noted his curveball and changeup felt sharper on Thursday. "But it's not."
While the decision rests with the Yankees, Kennedy said that he does not believe being skipped in the rotation would be a benefit.
"I don't think it would help," Kennedy said. "I feel fine. I think it would make me more frustrated. I think it's just to be out there more and work my situations out on the mound. This past week I've been throwing really good bullpens and my work has been really good."
The game turned in the sixth inning, as reliever Jonathan Albaladejo couldn't hold the tie after New York scraped out a fourth run against Detroit's Nate Robertson in the fifth.
Ramon Santiago scored Carlos Guillen and Jacque Jones by ripping a two-run triple up the right-center-field gap, and one inning later, Miguel Cabrera cracked a two-run homer to right, his sixth, also off Albaladejo.
"This is a dangerous club, the Tigers," Girardi said. "Everyone knows they have a great offense. If you don't make your pitches on the Tigers, they're going to hurt you."
The victory marked Detroit's first three-game sweep of the Yankees at Yankee Stadium since June 8-11, 1966. The two clubs rematch for a three-game weekend series beginning May 9 in Detroit.
"We're just trying to win," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "It was a good series, and I can't wait until next weekend is over. Their lineup will break loose any moment now. Believe me, I can't wait until next weekend is over and we can put them behind us."
As they did on Wednesday, the Yankees put runs on the board in the first inning before going quiet. The first four Bombers reached base against the lefty Robertson, including Bobby Abreu's line drive three-run homer to right -- his third.
With the bullpen already stirring in the first inning, Robertson settled in, limiting the Yankees to four runs over 5 2/3 innings.
"Sometimes a guy is going to pitch well, but you've still got to find ways to get guys on base, get them over and get them in," Derek Jeter said. "You're not always going to be hitting home runs. We've got to find ways to do the little things and we just haven't been doing that."
Clearly, the Yankees lineup continues to miss Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada, both on the disabled list and out for at least weeks.
"I think when you're missing two of the best hitters, I think you can try to pick up the slack," Johnny Damon said. "Every one of us are pretty good players, too. If we just stay within our games and do what we're capable of doing, we should still be fine."
With rain falling for most of the game, New York tied the game in the fifth, as Jeter worked a one-out walk, moved up on an Abreu single and scored on Shelley Duncan's RBI hit. The run was the 1,390th of Jeter's career, tying Joe DiMaggio for fourth place on the Yankees' all-time list.
The Yankees mounted another rally in the sixth against three Detroit pitchers. Robertson got the first two outs before Chad Moeller singled. Damon, the only batter Bobby Seay faced, legged out a dribbler up the first-base line. Jeter then beat out a grounder to third base, greeting Zach Miner, but Abreu flew to center, leaving the bases loaded.
"We had some shots," Girardi said. "We didn't have a lot, but we had some, and we weren't able to capitalize. When you play a team like the Tigers, you know that you're going to have to score some runs."
Yet the Yankees' main concern was watching Kennedy struggle again -- one, falling into a rocky third inning, and two, piling up pitches before forcing the bullpen into the game early.
In the third, Curtis Granderson's run-scoring groundout put Detroit on the board, and after a visit from pitching coach Dave Eiland, Kennedy issued a walk. Ordonez slugged a two-run double on a 1-2 pitch before Cabrera poked a triple past Abreu in right field, giving the Tigers the lead.
Kennedy was lifted for Albaladejo with two outs in the fifth inning, the fourth time in six starts this season that Kennedy has not been able to go at least five innings.
"I don't necessarily see a kid that's tense in-between starts," Girardi said. "I see a kid that goes about and does his work. I see him very professional and see him work hard. The bottom line is that at this level, you've got to get results."