Tony Gwynn & Jeff Passan: Tigers could ruin Yanks’ playoff plans
The Detroit Tigers are counting on a rookie to help them avoid their longest losing streak of the season.
Detroit (35-18) lost 6-1 to the Yankees on Wednesday, its fifth straight defeat to New York and eighth in nine meetings dating to last season. The Tigers have lost four in a row for the second time this season, with their other such slump coming April 9-13.
Despite the losing streak, the Tigers still own the best record in baseball and lead the Chicago White Sox by 1 1/2 games in the AL Central.
Detroit hopes its rookie phenom can help get the team back on track. Verlander (7-3, 2.55 ERA) won his fourth straight start on Saturday, allowing just one run and seven hits in seven innings of a 3-1 victory over the Cleveland Indians.
Verlander, who was coming off his first shutout on May 22 at Kansas City, was named American League co-player of the week on Tuesday along with Tampa Bay’s Carl Crawford.
“With the equipment that he’s got, he should have a nice future,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “He’s one of those guys, a young guy has to learn how to handle some failure and has to learn how to handle success at the same time. It’s still going to be a process. It’s not going to be perfect.”
Cleveland’s Paul Byrd, who was charged with the loss Saturday despite allowing just two unearned runs, was certainly impressed.
“One of the best arms on a starting pitcher that I’ve seen … ever,” he said. “I’ve been around a long time. You don’t see too many starters throwing 100 miles per hour.”
Verlander, who has never faced the Yankees, went 4-1 with a 1.73 ERA in five May starts.
The Yankees counter with right-hander Chien-Ming Wang (5-2, 4.50), who gave up four runs and seven hits in seven innings of Saturday’s 15-4 win over the Kansas City Royals. He is 4-1 with a 4.11 ERA over his last five starts.
Wang won both of his starts against the Tigers last season, allowing just two earned runs in 13 1-3 innings.
Alex Rodriguez went 3-for-4 with a triple and two RBIs Wednesday for the Yankees (31-20), who matched their season-high with their fifth straight victory. However, Rodriguez also allowed Placido Polanco to reach second base on a ninth-inning error. Polanco came around to score on Magglio Ordonez’s single, ruining Mike Mussina’s shutout bid.
Shortstop Derek Jeter (sore right palm) and center fielder Johnny Damon (toe) both sat out. Right fielder Gary Sheffield, who was activated from the disabled list on May 23, did not play for the second straight game because of a sore left wrist. He traveled to New York early Wednesday and had a MRI exam, but it wasn’t scheduled to be read until Thursday morning.