Verlander gets nod for Tigers in opener versus Yanks
(Sports Network) - The Detroit Tigers have been awfully tough to beat at home as of late. With Justin Verlander set to take the mound, the challenge could be even more difficult for the New York Yankees when the American League East front-runners start up a seven-game road trip with tonight's matchup from Comerica Park.
The Tigers have won eight consecutive contests in the Motor City and enter this key four-game series with an uplifting extra-inning victory over the sagging Cleveland Indians on Sunday. Trailing by three runs and down to its final out in the bottom of the 10th, Detroit scored five times off Tribe closer Chris Perez, with Miguel Cabrera completing the comeback with a tie- breaking walkoff homer that gave his team a thrilling 10-8 triumph.
Perez had retired the first two batters before issuing back-to-back walks, and Austin Jackson kept the Tigers' hopes alive with a run-scoring double to trim the deficit to 8-6. Omar Infante followed with a two-RBI single that knotted the score, before Cabrera stepped to the plate and launched a Perez pitch over the wall in left-center field that enabled Detroit to record a three-game series sweep.
Cleveland had taken a 7-5 advantage on consecutive solo homers by Travis Hafner and Ezequiel Cabrera off Joaquin Benoit in the top of the 10th, and tacked on another run against rookie Darin Downs later in the inning.
The win was the fourth in a row for Detroit and kept the team within 1 1/2 games of Chicago for first place in the AL Central. The Tigers also moved into a tie with Oakland in the race for the league's two Wild Card berths.
"It's good to get those wins with teams in your division," said Jackson. "Getting those wins, especially a sweep with a team in your division, it's a good time."
Detroit aims to keep on rolling behind Verlander, the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award recipient who brings an imposing 5-2 record and 1.68 earned run average in nine Comerica Park outings this season into tonight's tilt.
Verlander has lost his last two assignments, however, surrendering nine runs (7 earned) and walking six over a combined 12 innings in road setbacks to Cleveland and Boston, and the Yankees have had the ace righty's number recently. New York has prevailed in each of its last five regular-season encounters with Verlander, who's 0-2 with a 4.91 ERA over that span.
For his career, the All-Star hurler is just 4-4 with 4.17 ERA in 12 non- playoff starts against the Bronx Bombers.
New York counters with its best pitcher on the road in 2012, Ivan Nova. The Dominican right-hander has compiled a splendid 7-1 mark with a 3.32 ERA in 12 away starts on the year, though he'll be attempting to shake off a dreadful performance in his home park last time out.
Nova was battered for a season-high nine runs and 10 hits before exiting after five innings of a loss to Baltimore at Yankee Stadium this past Tuesday. He was also hit hard by the Tigers in an April 27 encounter in the Bronx, permitting six runs and 11 hits in a 5 1/3-inning no-decision.
Including one relief stint back in 2010, Nova has allowed six runs and 13 hits through 7 1/3 innings of work in two regular-season appearances against Detroit. He did beat the Tigers with 6 1/3 frames of two-run ball in last year's AL Division Series, however.
The Yankees, who will head to Toronto for three games on the second leg of this trek, are just 6-10 since July 19, but do come in with a bit of momentum after taking two of three bouts from visiting Seattle over the weekend.
In Sunday's rubber match with the Mariners, Raul Ibanez went 2-for-4 with a homer and three RBI and Freddy Garcia teamed up with three relievers on a five-hitter as New York came away with a 6-2 decision.
Chris Stewart collected two hits and scored three times to help the Yankees maintain a 6 1/2-game cushion over second-place Baltimore in the AL East. Garcia aided the cause by holding Seattle to two runs on five hits over the first five innings to notch the 150th victory of his career, becoming the first Venezuelan pitcher to reach that mark.
"I think it's just a mentality he has," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said of Garcia. "He's not afraid to be behind in the count. He's not afraid to throw his offspeed [pitches] behind in the count. He doesn't give in."
Ichiro Suzuki finished 1-for-3 in Sunday's win and has now hit safely in all 12 games since the former Seattle legend was traded by the Mariners to the Yankees on July 23. The veteran outfielder is batting .256 (11-for-43) during that stretch.
New York, which was ousted in five games by the Tigers in last October's ALCS, has won four of six clashes between these clubs thus far in 2012. The Yankees have lost in four of their last five regular-season visits to Comerica Park, however.