Tigers-Yankees Preview

The Associated Press

The Detroit Tigers eliminated the New York Yankees in the opening round of the playoffs last fall.

Justin Verlander was responsible for one of those victories, but he hasn't been nearly as effective in the Bronx.

The reigning AL MVP and Cy Young winner looks to win a third straight start with his first victory at New York in almost five years Friday night when the Tigers and Yankees open this three-game series.

Detroit (10-9) beat New York (10-8) in five games in the AL divisional series before being eliminated in six by Texas in the championship series.

Verlander (2-1, 1.72 ERA) earned one of those victories against the Yankees, yielding four runs with 11 strikeouts in eight innings of a 5-4 win in Game 3. That performance, however, came at home and the right-hander is 0-2 with a 4.26 ERA in four starts at Yankee Stadium since getting his only career win in New York on Aug. 16. 2007.

Rain interrupted his last appearance in the Bronx, as he exited after the opening inning of Game 1 of the ALDS.

Verlander returns as the winner of back-to-back starts after yielding an unearned run and four hits with eight strikeouts on 115 pitches in six innings of Saturday's 3-2 victory over Texas. That performance came five days after he threw 131 pitches - one shy of his career high - while fanning nine in a seven-hit 3-2 win at Kansas City.

"I thought he was outstanding (Saturday)," manager Jim Leyland said. "That's a championship team, and it is a championship team that's hot, but he did a tremendous job."

The Yankees will counter with Ivan Nova (3-0, 3.79), who has won 15 consecutive regular-season decisions - a run he extended with a 6-2 victory at Boston last Friday. He allowed two runs and seven hits over six innings while walking none and striking out five.

"He's a monster. I don't know when people are going to realize that he's a fantastic young pitcher," teammate Alex Rodriguez said. "All he knows how to do is win."

The right-hander wasn't sharp in losing Game 5 to Detroit in last year's ALDS, serving up a pair of solo homers and leaving after two innings.

Nova has been backed by 20 total runs while winning his first three starts of 2012, but runs figure to be difficult to come by against Verlander, who is holding opponents to .157 average.

Yankees captain Derek Jeter continues to be among the best hitters in baseball. He is batting .420 and is 11 for 17 over the past four games, including two hits in Wednesday's 7-3 road loss to the Rangers.

Jeter's 15-game hitting streak is his longest since a 16-game run from May 17-June 2, 2009.

"He's amazing," Rodriguez told the team's official website. "You see him in batting practice, and the ball's jumping off his bat to all fields. When you go 10-15 rows up in batting practice to all fields, that's pretty impressive. I think whatever he was doing in the second half (last year), he's just building on this year."

The Tigers enter this series having dropped four straight, capping a 1-6 homestand with Thursday's 5-4 loss to Seattle.

"We're not getting big hits late in the game. We're not making some plays, we're not pitching real good, we're not managing good enough, we're not coaching good enough," manager Jim Leyland said. "We're all involved in this together, that's just the way it is. You just gotta get aggressive and take charge and get after somebody."

Miguel Cabrera, who hit his sixth home run Thursday, has a .382 average with nine homers and 20 RBIs in his last 19 visits to the Bronx.

Delmon Young's trip to New York has gone badly even before the first game. It's unclear if the Tigers will have the outfielder in the lineup after he was arrested on a hate crime harassment charge early Friday morning.

Police said he got into a fight with a group of men and yelled anti-Semitic epithets.