Originally posted on Pro Sports Daily  |  Last updated 4/29/12

By Dave Buscema

The Sports Xchange

NEW YORK -- The rookie making his major league debut battled the superstar who had tied a Hall of Famer on the all-time RBI list earlier in the game.

It was the bottom of the seventh inning at Yankee Stadium on Sunday and Detroit Tigers reliever Luke Putkonen endured an intimidating initiation in his major league debut. He had pitched into and out of trouble in his first full inning and change in the big leagues and now he faced New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, with the Tigers trailing by a run.

There were runners on second and third with one out and the Yankees leading by just one run in a game they would eventually win, 6-2.

The game had been like the season so far for the Yankees, full of starts and stops, and ultimately remaining unsatisfying with the Yankees unable to just pull away. It was especially frustrating with ace CC Sabathia (3-0) offering a dominant performance that seemed in jeopardy of being in vain. Sabathia allowed two runs in eight innings while striking out eight, giviing up a home run to Prince Fielder and a two-run double to Miguel Cabrera and little else.

Putkonen threw the 3-2 pitch and Rodriguez rapped a grounder to short, the rookie seemingly winning the battle as Yankees catcher Chris Stewart ran home.

Tigers shortstop Ramon Santiago, who had been playing in with the rest of the infield, made his throw in time.

But Stewart slid his left leg just around catcher Alex Avila's tag to give the Yankees their long-awaited insurance run. Detroit manager Jim Leyland argued, but to no avail, and replays backed up home-plate umpire Rob Drake's call.

Curtis Granderson added another run on a sacrifice fly for a 5-2 lead and the Yankees were on their way to claim a series victory by winning their second in three games.

It was just a slice of the day's drama for the Yankees. Earlier Yankees manager Joe Girardi announced Freddy Garcia had been demoted to the bullpen. And outfielder Nick Swisher had left the game with a tight left hamstring,

Detroit headed home to play Kansas City having lost six of seven, along with Delmon Young, who was placed on the restricted list Saturday after his arrest early Friday morning in Manhattan, for a fight that included him shouting anti-Semitic remarks, according to police.

The RBI was Rodriguez's second of the game, 1,904th of his career, and it pushed him past Willie Mays for eighth place on the major-league all-time list.

Like his first RBI of the game, which also came on an infield single, it was not particularly impressive. But it was indicative of a game in which the Yankees took turns leaving you wondering how they weren't scoring more runs.

They peppered Tigers starter Max Scherzer for seven hits in 4 2/3 innings, adding seven walks, but managed only three runs against the losing pitcher. They stranded 15 base runners, but scored four of their five runs on a walk, sacrifice fly and the pair of infield singles.

Aside from Granderson's home run to right-center field in the fourth -- almost stolen by a superb play by Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson, who reached over the fence, but lost the ball as he tried to bring it back -- and Andruw Jones' homer in the eighth, the Yankees' offense did not flex its star-studded muscles.

New York also had to wonder about Swisher, who left the game in the bottom of the third inning with a tight left hamstring, after he jogged to first. He was replaced by pinch-runner Jones, and will undergo a precautionary MRI, the Yankees announced.

Granderson also reached a RBI milestone in unusual fashion, notching his 500th on a bases-loaded walk in the second inning to score the game's first run. Rodriguez followed with a dribbler that third baseman Cabrera couldn't handle to make it 2-0.

Granderson's homer in the fourth made it 3-0, but Detroit made things tense as Scherzer and Putkonen wiggled out of trouble and Detroit pulled within 3-2 in the sixth.

NOTES: Yankees RHP Freddy Garcia was demoted to the bullpen Sunday, a day after he raised his ERA to 12.51 by allowing six runs in 1 2/3 innings. RHP David Phelps was the most likely candidate to take his spot in the rotation after throwing three scoreless innings in relief Saturday. ... RHP D.J. Mitchell was called up from Class AAA Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. RHP Cody Eppley, who pitched three innings Saturday and had a 1.69 ERA this year, was demoted. ... RHP Doug Fister (strained rib cage) was scheduled to make a rehab start for Class AAA Toledo next Wednesday.

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