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Coming off what seems like the Yankees first series win in forever, they are no doubt looking to build some momentum after starting the second-half of the season 11-11. After today’s 6-2 victory over the Seattle Mariners, the Yankees boarded a plane heading to Detroit, the first stop on a seven-game road trip, which ends in Toronto. Since this first series in the Motor City is a four-game set, avoiding Justin Verlander would be tough. As a matter of fact, he’ll open up tomorrow night against Ivan Nova.
Verlander’s accolades are hard to ignore. He’s the reigning AL MVP AND Cy Young Award Winner. Although he’s not having the same kind of season he did in 2011, his ’12 numbers are still impressive. He’s 11-7 with a sparkling 2.63 ERA, 152 strikeouts in 160.2 innings, and a .98 WHIP – meaning he allows less than one baserunner per inning. Known for getting stronger as the game goes along, Verlander already has six complete games (career high) after having four in each of the past two seasons.
As Yankee fans look up and down at Verlander’s jaw-dropping numbers, they might already be conceding defeat tomorrow night. After all, he’s 5-2 with a 1.68 ERA at home this year. However, throughout his career believe it or not, the Yankees have hit Verlander and have made him look like a regular pitcher at times, and in his past five starts against the Yankees, the Tigers have lost all of them. For his career against the Yankees, the Tigers ace is just 4-4 in 12 games started, with a very pedestrian ERA of 4.17. In 69 innings, he’s given up 74 hits – 10 being home runs. His WHIP is well north of 1, at 1.52. What these numbers show me is that the Yankees are pouncing on pitches early from Verlander. Since he is always near the zone, the important thing to do is to hit early and often so you can’t get down 0-2 If you are still not a believer that the Yankees can hit Verlander, look no further than his last start against New York.
Earlier in the season, Verlander faced the Yankees at home at Comerica Park and pitched into the seventh inning. However, when he left, he had given up five runs (three earned) on nine hits and received a loss in a game the Yankees won 5-1. He uncharacteristically walked four and struck out four, giving up two home runs as well.
If the Yankees can’t beat Verlander, they have to at least stay with him. Tomorrow’s starter Nova will have to match zero for zero if the Yankees bats don’t come alive. Some guys to look for off Verlander are Derek Jeter, Ichiro and Robinson Cano. Jeter is hitting .344 (11-for-32) for his career off the ace, Ichiro is hitting .333 (17-f0r-51) with a homer and six RBIs, while Robinson Cano has struggled with a career average of .185 (5-for-27) with just one RBI. The Yankees approach over the years has been to wait out pitchers and get into the bullpen early. With Verlander, if you wait, you’ll be down 0-2 before you know it. Look for the Yankees to be aggressive early, hoping to connect on any pitch in the zone.