"In Spring Training, we looked at a strength of our club being our pitching, and we've gotten off to a slow start," Yankees starter Phil Hughes said. "There's nothing more to it than that. We have to do a better job as starters and keep our team in the game."
Activated from the disabled list before Saturday's game, Hughes did a good job of limiting the Tigers to an unearned run through the first four innings, but he was unable to record an out in the fifth and the Yankees' bullpen was able to offer little relief.
"I think it's just a rough start. We've got to get it turned around," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "It doesn't get any easier tomorrow with [Justin] Verlander, but we've got to get it turned around. We're swinging the bats OK. We've got to get the pitching turned around a little bit."
Many of the veteran Yankees have been saying for weeks that no one is going to feel sorry for them as they wait for reinforcements, and in the opposing dugout, that is certainly proving to be true.
"When I was in Minnesota, the Yankees owned us," said Torii Hunter, who stroked three hits in the victory. "And now with Detroit, I kind of like it. It's a lot of fun. The Yankees are the Yankees, man. It's a good ballclub. No matter what, when you hear the word Yankees, it's special. So when we come out here and we beat those guys, it's always special."
The first three Tigers batters reached base in the fifth against Hughes, including Hunter's RBI double and Miguel Cabrera's RBI single -- one of four hits on the day for the slugger. Boone Logan then turned in another ineffective relief appearance, allowing two hits and a sacrifice fly.
Jhonny Peralta greeted David Phelps -- who had been New York's scheduled starter for Saturday before Hughes was activated -- with a run-scoring single, and it was more of the same for the Yankees, who have now permitted 33 runs and 61 hits through their first five games.
"We haven't played well enough to win some of these games," Yankees outfielder Vernon Wells said. "You've got to give that team credit, they came out and swung the bats. I think our pitchers made some quality pitches when they needed to, because it could have been a lot worse with as many hits as they had."
The Yankees' patchwork order tried to keep pace with Detroit's thunder, and Tigers starter Max Scherzer was hit for four runs and five hits in five-plus innings, including Wells' second homer of the season.
New York's first four hits were all for extra bases, including three in the second inning, but they came away with just one run in that frame because Brennan Boesch was thrown out at the plate by Hunter on an ill-advised play as Francisco Cervelli flied out to right field.
"You expect to score more there, but it didn't happen and you have to find a way to not let that keep you from winning the game," Girardi said.
New York answered Detroit's big fifth inning with three runs in the sixth, as Travis Hafner laced an RBI single off Scherzer and Lyle Overbay slapped a hanging Al Alburquerque slider for a two-run single to take advantage of four Tigers walks in the inning.
That was a frame in which the Yankees thought they might catch a needed break, as umpire Brian O'Nora initially ruled Wells safe diving back to first base after Fielder appeared to turn an unassisted double play on a Boesch liner.
Wells was ushered back to first base by coach Mick Kelleher, but reading the lips of home-plate umpire Jerry Layne, Wells knew it wouldn't be long until the umpiring crew reversed the call.
"I had a close up view of it," Wells said. "When they said, 'Hey, you're safe,' I'm like, 'OK. I'll get back on the base.' I saw Jerry coming, I could read his lips. I'm like, 'I'm going back to the dugout.'"
Detroit pushed back with two runs in the home sixth when Fielder and Andy Dirks drove in runs off Phelps, and Joba Chamberlain allowed a tack-on run in the eighth inning.
Darin Downs threw two scoreless innings and the Yanks went in order against Joaquin Benoit in the ninth as Detroit pelted New York for at least eight runs in back-to-back games for the first time since 2004.
"You know, this is baseball," Cervelli said. "I think it's better that it happens now. We know this situation is going to change. We've got a really strong pitching staff. They're going to come and make the adjustments. They know how they can do things well."