The only word I can come up with right now to describe how I feel about this upcoming series is yikes. Yep, the word that’s used mostly humorously for expressing alarm is the only word I can come up with.
Call it a gut feeling but with the way the Yankees have been playing lately – as in the past three weeks or so – I’m not too confident about their chances.
Of course, that’s not to say they can’t beat Detroit – they’re 4-2 against them so far this year. It’s just that the Yankees haven’t looked good recently, four-game series are tough as it is and tonight’s matchup may be the scariest out of all of the pitching match-ups in this series.
It will be Ivan Nova going up against Justin Verlander. Not that Nova is terrible but he had a hard time against Baltimore in his last start and they don’t have Miguel Cabrera or Prince Fielder in their lineup.
Earlier in the season there was a similar matchup discrepancy when Phil Hughes faced Verlander in Comerica Field on a Sunday afternoon in early June. Shockingly, Hughes was the winner of that contest. He was the one who pitched a one-run complete game while Verlander gave up four runs enroute to a 5-1 loss to the Yanks.
Nova has been up and down this season. When he’s good, he’s really good. On July 8 he earned a win in Boston while holding the Red Sox to one earned run over six innings while firing 10 strikeouts. But when he’s bad, he’s unlucky – at least according to himself.
In his last start against Baltimore on July 31 he gave up nine earned runs on 10 hits in only five innings of work on the way to a 10-5 loss – seven of those runs came with two outs in the second inning.
Verlander is coming into tonight’s matchup on a two-game skid but only gave up three and four runs respectively, so it’s not like he’s being blown out. His season ERA is still an impressive 2.63, his WHIP is an even more impressive 0.977 and his strikeout per 9 rate is sitting at an 8.5. Nova’s is an 8.1.
Still Verlander has been very un-Verlanderesque in his starts against the Yankees so far this season. In 12.1 innings pitched he’s give up 16 hits, 10 runs – seven of them earned – four home runs, has walked four batters and struck out eight to the tune of a 5.11 ERA.
So do I think tonight’s game will end up surprising us like that matchup in early June did? No. Do I want to be wrong? Of course I do! I’d love nothing more for Ivan Nova to come out and pitch like he seems to think he can.
Hughes will be pitching tomorrow night with Rick Porcello cast as his counterpart on the mound for Detroit. Amusingly enough, if you go to Hughes’s Baseball Reference page and look at the list of players ranked as similar pitchers, Porcello is listed at number 3 with a score of 969.
Hughes actually has good numbers against the Tigers at Comerica in his career. Granted it’s only 98 at bats for the Tigers but he’s held them to 15 hits – one double, no triples, four home runs – he’s walked seven batters and has struck out 28. He’s held the Tigers batters to a line of .153/.217/.286/.503.
The Yankees batters have a .261/.327/.348/.675 line against Porcello in Comerica. Their slugging percentage is low – they have only one home run and three doubles in 24 at bats. Porcello’s lefty/righty splits are amazingly lopsided.
His line against righties: .174/.208/.174/.382
His line against lefties: .290/.364/.406/.770
I’m willing to bet that the lineup will be stacked with lefties tomorrow night.
The next matchup has CC Sabathia up against Anibal Sanchez. Sanchez was recently traded to Detroit from the Miami Marlins and most of his numbers come from pitching in the National League. So far in the American League he’s pitched in two games. He has one win and one loss. He gave up two runs in the win and five runs in the loss.
Sabathia threw a complete game on Friday night against the Mariners and he’s sitting at 11-3 on the year with a 3.53 ERA. Now, he’s not exactly dominating teams but he hasn’t been terrible either. Still, he gets nearly six runs of support when he pitches and it will be interesting to see how the Yankees do against Sanchez.
Will they support the big man like they usually do? Sanchez seems to have a little trouble against the American League East – he’s lost two games to Toronto and one to Tampa Bay this season. Two of those losses were during Interleague play when he was still with the Marlins.
The finale of the series sees Hiroki Kuroda facing Doug Fister. Both pitchers had outstanding outings in their last starts but Kuroda was on the losing end of a 1-0 game. Kuroda may not have the 11-3 record of CC Sabathia but as we all know wins aren’t an indicator of how someone is pitching. Kuroda has the lowest ERA of all the Yankees starters (3.19) and is averaging less than a home run per nine innings which is good considering the problems his teammates have had this year in the long ball category.
Fister threw a complete game in his last start against Cleveland on August 4. He gave up one run on four hits while striking out six and not walking a single batter. His teammates have provided him with 4.79 runs of support in his starts so it will be interesting to see how they do against Kuroda who has given up more than one run only once in his last four starts – and he only gave up two in that one against Boston on July 29.
Fister is no slouch either. He’s only given up more than one run in one of his last five starts – he gave up three against Cleveland on July 24.
Now that I’ve looked at the numbers, I’m not as scared for the Yankees anymore. It should be an interesting four games.