After opening the season with two losses to the Red Sox, the Yankees won their first game of the season the “old” fashioned way. Two long-time Yankees locked down the win as Andy Pettitte threw eight fantastic innings leading to Mariano Rivera’s first save of the year. If the Yankees want to pick up wins this weekend in Detroit, they will have to rely on their young pitchers to get the job done.
The last time we saw the Yankees play the Tigers was last year’s American League Championship. A fairly routine sweep by the Tigers and the Yankees were history. Nothing in that series went right for the Pinstripes as their best hitters went ice cold and were overmatched by a talented Tigers team.
Heading into Mo-Town this weekend, the Yankees have a chance to get a measure of revenge on the reigning American League champs. Ivan Nova takes the mound in the opener and David Phelps will get the ball on Saturday. Both of these young arms need to be strong to start the season as much of the offensive power on this team remains on the disabled list. Staff ace, CC Sabathia will get the start on Sunday to close the series in what will be a great pitching duel as he faces Justin Verlander.
Verlander and the Tigers struggled in their opening series against the Twins, only winning Opening Day (Verlander start). They have scored eight runs in three games, as they wait for their offense to click. Before we see the Sabathia – Verlander showdown, the Tigers will send Doug Fister and Max Scherzer to the mound.
Manager Jim Leyland has been trying to patch together his bullpen without Jose Valverde – who the team just re-signed yesterday. Different bullpen arms have been tested in late innings but they haven’t made an impact on the manager to warrant the closer job. Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque and Joaquin Benoit will all take turns until Valverde joins the team.
Tiger pitchers will face a line up much different then what they saw in last year’s playoffs. With the majority of those players hurt (Jeter, Rodriguez, Granderson and Tiexeira) and others on different teams (Raul Ibanez, Russell Martin), the current lineup will have to get the job done. A lot of the pressure falls on Robinson Cano, who had major issues at the plate last postseason only hitting .075 in 40 plate appearances. It’s hard to imagine Cano struggling like that ever again, so this weekend I expect him to hit the Tigers hard.
In the other dugout, the Tigers basically have the same lineup that knocked the Yankees out of the playoffs last year. Lead by the reigning American League MVP (and Triple Crown Winner) Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers offense is ready to pounce. With slugger Prince Fielder and speedster Austin Jackson, it is only a matter of time before the wheels start spinning and the Tigers offense produces big numbers.
If the Yankees want to leave Detroit with a few more wins they will need to contain the Tigers offense and get their lineup to do something they couldn’t do last October against Detroit; hit the ball and score runs. With a team average of only .188 in the whole playoffs, the Yankees hitters can only do better this time around.
I look for both offenses to heat up as the weather gets a bit warmer this weekend. The uncertainty of the Tigers late-game bullpen could surface as a major issue in this series that could leave the door open for the Yankees to attack. Hopefully we won’t have to wait until the late innings to see the Yankees offense (i.e. last postseason- thanks to Ibanez).
The first two games of the weekend set will be a showcase of young arms as Nova, Phelps, Fister and Scherzer all look to get their 2013 campaigns started in the right direction as we all await the Sabathia – Verlander match on Sunday.
Everyone enjoy your weekend, and enjoy the games. Remember we are only in the first weekend of the season- don’t jump ship yet reinforcements will be coming shortly.