MORTON GROVE, Ill. (AP)—Earlier this season, the Detroit Tigers looked like they were well on their way to finishing with the best record in the AL.
That’s not the case anymore.
After a rainout Tuesday, the New York Yankees look to gain ground in the race for homefield advantage throughout the playoffs when meet the Tigers in a day-night doubleheader at Yankee Stadium on Wednesday.
Detroit (82-49) and New York (77-52) both have comfortable leads in their divisions, but the Yankees have managed to pull within four games of the Tigers for the best record in the AL. New York has picked up ground on Detroit by going 27-16 since the All-Star break while the Tigers have gone 23-20.
The Yankees completed a five-game sweep at Boston from Aug. 18-21 to increase their lead over the Red Sox in the AL East, but stumbled to drop four of the last six contests of an 11-game road trip.
New York won the finale of the trip on Sunday, beating the Los Angeles Angels 11-8 behind Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter. Williams homered twice and drove in six runs, and Jeter also hit two home runs as the Yankees avoided a fourth straight loss.
“Finishing the road trip the way we did, it was pretty good,” Williams said. “We wanted to do better, but we’ll take it. Every time we go to the West Coast, it’s always tough, so we’ll take 7-4.”
Alex Rodriguez is probably happy that New York has left the West Coast. Rodriguez went 2-for-20 with 14 strikeouts in five contests against Seattle and Los Angeles, and also had a throat infection that caused him to miss Wednesday’s game against the Mariners.
He went 1-for-15 with 10 strikeouts in the three-game series with the Angels.
“This is about winning,” Rodriguez said. “Sure, I’m disappointed about going 1-for-15 or whatever the line may be, but you’ve got to move on and keep grinding. It’s important for me to play well down the stretch for this team and in October. And I still have that chance.”
Chien-Ming Wang (15-5, 3.81 ERA), who starts the opener, seems to always give the Yankees a chance to win. The right-hander has won seven of his last eight decisions, and New York is 18-10 in games he has started this season.
Wang won twice on the Yankees’ road trip, allowing five runs and 14 hits over 13 innings in victories over Boston and Seattle.
“I don’t think we could have expected this,” Yankees manager Joe Torre said of Wang, who is 23-10 with a 3.90 ERA since making his major league debut on April 30, 2005. “You love those happy surprises.”
Jaret Wright (9-7, 4.72) will go in the nightcap, looking for his fourth straight win over the Tigers. In three wins with Cleveland from 1999-2002, the right-hander has allowed only five runs in 17 innings.
He may be pitching to keep his spot in the rotation this time. In two starts after a three-game winning streak, Wright has given up eight runs and 11 hits in 6 2-3 innings combined, failing to get out of the fourth both times.
Wright did not get a decision Friday in a 6-5 loss to Angels after allowing three runs and nine hits in 3 2-3 innings. He is 5-5 with a 5.26 ERA in 11 home starts this year.
Nate Robertson (11-10, 4.10) was one of the leaders in the Tigers’ surprising start to the season, going 8-3 with a 3.14 ERA in his first 16 starts. The left-hander, though, is 3-7 with a 5.50 ERA over his last 10 outings heading into his start Tuesday.
Robertson, 1-3 with a 4.86 ERA in five career starts against New York, gave up a career-high 10 runs in falling 10-0 to the Chicago White Sox in his last outing on Thursday. He also allowed a career high-tying three home runs.
“He made a lot of bad pitches,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said, “and every (bad pitch) that he made was hit out of the ballpark. Sometimes you make bad pitches and they hit them at people, and you get away with them. And some days, you make bad pitches and they leave the ballpark.”
Wilfredo Ledezma (2-1, 2.08) will make his second start of the season for Detroit in the second game. The left-hander pitched 5 2-3 innings of six-hit ball in a 1-0 win over the Indians on Aug. 6 in his only other start this year.
He scattered seven hits over four innings in relief of Zach Miner on Aug. 23 in a 7-5 loss to the Chicago White Sox. Ledezma is 0-1 with a 12.60 ERA in two career appearances, including one start, against the Yankees.
Detroit snapped a four-game losing streak with a 7-1 victory over Cleveland on Sunday. Kenny Rogers pitched seven solid innings and the Tigers backed him with four home runs to win for just the sixth time in their last 19 games.
“I told the team what they saw today is why I haven’t been ranting and raving,” Leyland said. “We’re not going to panic. What’s been happening to us is what happens to every team in baseball. It’s noticed more because we’re in a pennant race. We’re not going to have meetings or all this urgency. It doesn’t work that way.”
New York took three of four games in Detroit from May 29-June 1 and is 29-12 against the Tigers since the start of the 2001 season, including a 15-3 mark at Yankee Stadium.