The New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers met in the postseason a year ago, but both teams need to make up some ground in the standings over the final five weeks of this season to return to the playoffs.
After squaring off in New York last weekend, the Yankees and Tigers meet for another important four-game series beginning on Thursday at Comerica Park.
New York (71-56) took three of four from Detroit at Yankee Stadium to move within four games of AL East-leading Boston, but couldn’t carry any momentum into its next series at Los Angeles.
The Yankees salvaged the finale of their three-game set against the Angels with an 8-2 victory Wednesday, one night after losing 18-9.
“You didn’t want to be swept out here, especially heading into the off-day, and we have to go to Detroit,” Wednesday’s winning pitcher Andy Pettitte told the Yankees’ official Web site. “It’s going to be another big series and they’re going to be tough. We just have to keep going.”
New York, which is 16-7 since July 29, has won 13 of 17 regular-season meetings over the Tigers since 2005, but Detroit knocked the Yankees out of last season’s playoffs by winning their AL division series in four games. The Yankees start play five games behind the Red Sox, whose game with the White Sox on Thursday night was postponed by rain and will be made up as part of a day-night doubleheader on Friday.
Detroit (68-59) has now lost 19 of its last 27 to fall 2 1/2 games behind Cleveland for the AL Central lead. The Tigers dropped two of three games to the Indians this week, including a 10-inning, 3-1 defeat on Thursday.
“If you sit around and stare at the standings and don’t do anything about it, you’ve got problems,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said.
Magglio Ordonez went 5-for-11 with two home runs and a double in the series with Cleveland, but was just 3-for-16 (.188) with no extra-base hits last weekend versus the Yankees. The six-time All-Star is only 6-for-29 (.207) with two homers and seven strikeouts lifetime against Friday’s starter Roger Clemens (5-5, 3.92 ERA), who looks to beat the Tigers for the second straight start.
Clemens gave up two runs, 10 hits and struck out eight in six innings of a 5-2 win over Detroit on Saturday for his 353rd career victory. He was working on 10 days’ rest after serving a five-game suspension for hitting Toronto’s Alex Rios in the back with a pitch on Aug. 7.
The 45-year-old right-hander has allowed only three runs in 12 innings to win his last two starts. He is trying to win three straight for the first time since winning four in a row from July 22-Aug. 7, 2005, with Houston.
Clemens is 6-1 with a 3.68 ERA in his last 10 starts against the Tigers, and is 26-11 with a 3.95 ERA in 47 career starts versus Detroit.
New York right fielder Bobby Abreu hit his 15th homer of the season on Wednesday, and is batting .414 (12-for-29) with three home runs, eight RBIs and nine runs scored during a seven-game hitting streak. Abreu went 8-for-16 with two homers and five RBIs against the Tigers last weekend, and is 7-for-14 with two triples, a double and five runs scored in three career games at Comerica Park.
Detroit’s Andrew Miller (5-4, 4.42) is expected to be activated from the disabled list to make his first start in three weeks.
The 22-year-old left-hander has not pitched since Aug. 3, when he was removed after four innings with a mild left hamstring strain. He yielded six runs and seven hits - including two homers - during the 7-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox.
In a rehab start on Monday, the 22-year-old left-hander allowed one run, one hit and struck out five in three innings for Triple-A Toledo.
“He looked outstanding - best I’ve ever seen him,” Leyland told the Tigers’ official Web site. “Now if he can bottle that delivery and smoothness and the ball jumping out of his hand like last night, he’ll be fine.”
Miller made his major league debut against the Yankees on Aug. 30 of last season, when he pitched a scoreless inning of relief. This will be his first start versus New York.
Tigers designated hitter Gary Sheffield, who played for New York from 2004-06, missed his second straight game with a sore right shoulder Thursday, and doesn’t plan on facing his former team this weekend.