Fresh off an important series win against the rival Red Sox, the Yankees will open what could perhaps be the toughest four-game set of the season. The last three AL Cy Young award winners (Max Scherzer, David Price and Justin Verlander) will all pitch against the Yankees over the next three days, then the fourth and final game will feature Rick Porcello, an All-Star snub and 13 game winner already on the season. Not since the Atlanta Braves teams of the 1990s with Hall of Famers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine followed by John Smoltz and Steve Avery has such a dominant and accomplished rotation been assembled.
The Yankees will need to take this series one game at a time. Each individual pitching match-up will be daunting enough by trying to look at all four games at once is downright terrifying. The Yankees are in the middle of a pennant race, and need to pile on wins, however, this may not be the week where that is going to happen. If the Yankees can manage a split of the four game set with Detroit, that should be viewed as a major accomplishment.
The Yankees have seen plenty each of Scherzer, Price, Verlander and Porcello. Scherzer has an ERA over five at Yankee Stadium. Price allowed Derek Jeter‘s 3,000 hit, a home run. Verlander is in the midst of the worst season of his career with a 9-9 record and ERA approaching 5. Porcello is a New Jersey kid who has struggled versus the Yankees, and Jacoby Ellsubry is batting .700 against the young hurler with two home runs. All four starting pitchers are beatable. They are not invincible. The Yankees can win any game in the series.
A key to each game of the series will be patience at the plate on the part of the Yankees’ hitters. They will need to work the count against each of the pitchers in this series. The Detroit bullpen has shown signs of weakness this season, although it has been bolstered by the addition of Joakim Soria as the new closer replacing the ineffective Joe Nathan. Former Yankee Joba Chamberlain has been hit hard in his last few outings, but prior to that had been having one of the best seasons of his career. Beyond those arms, however, the Tigers’ bullpen could be a weakness the Bombers could exploit to steal a few wins in this series.
Beating a few of the marquee pitchers in this series and earning a split will go a long way towards increasing the chances for a playoff spot for the Bombers. The Yankees need wins more than anything else over the next two months, but can split games against tougher competition like the Tigers, and load up on wins against weaker opponents. This is why their recent 3-3 road trip to Texas and Boston, two of the worst teams in the American League, has to be seen as a disappointment. They needed to pocket some extra wins going into a tough stretch against the Detroit rotation. All the Yankees can do now is rise to the challenge and beat some of the toughest pitchers the game has to offer.