Game 4 Preview: Yankees at Tigers

USA TODAY Sports

Today is Opening Day at Comerica Park as the Tigers welcome the Yankees into town for a three game series.

New York Yankees (1-2) at Detroit Tigers (1-2)

Time/Place: 1:05 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation blog: Pinstriped Bible

Media: Fox Sports Detroit, MLB Network, MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: RHP Ivan Nova (12-8, 5.02 ERA in 2012) vs. RHP Doug Fister (10-10, 3.45 ERA in 2012)

The last time Ivan Nova pitched in Comerica Park, this happened. But, you know, God forbid I embed a video from last August (seriously, MLB?), so here's similar footage off of Hiroki Kuroda from earlier in the year.

Nova gave up home runs at an alarming rate last year, inflating his ERA considerably (his xFIP was 3.92). His line drive rate increased by 4% and he didn't induce as many ground balls as he did in 2011, indicating to me that something was wrong with one of his primary pitches. According to PitchFX, it was his fastball, which was a whopping 23.6 runs below average last year. Nova doesn't throw a traditional two-seam fastball, but was able to induce groundouts at a high rate in 2011 with a four-seamer. In 2012, it seems as if the four seamer stopped diving, allowing hitters to square up on it much better.

In addition to the fastball, which averages around 92 miles per hour, he also mixes in a good curveball and an occasional slider. He threw a changeup fairly regularly in 2011, but only used it 3.6% of the time in 2012. Given that it was five runs below average last year according to PitchFX, it's probably a good thing that he scrapped it in favor of throwing more breaking balls. However, this resulted in left-handed batters improving from hitting .240/.317/.364 in 2011 to .272/.341/.508 last year.

Fister has struggled against the Yankees during the regular season, allowing 14 earned runs in 24 1/3 career innings against the Evil Empire. However, his last three starts against the Evil Empire have all been excellent, though two of those three starts have come in the postseason. The Yankee that has plagued Fister the most is none other than Brennan Boesch, who hit .583/.615/1.000 off of Fister in 13 plate appearances before the Tigers traded for Dougie Fresh.

Of course, now that Boesch is a former Tiger, he will hit three home runs in this series. Adjust your fantasy lineups accordingly.

Red-eyed pinstripes

Think the Tigers have it rough? The Yankees got roughed up in their first two games by the Boston Red Sox -- at home, no less -- before picking up a win last night behind eight strong innings from 40 year old lefty Andy Pettitte. Given the 7:05 start time, the Yankees probably didn't get into Detroit until the wee hours of the morning. The schedule makers did the Tigers a favor today.

Outlook

Despite the bullpen woes and offensive shortcomings, the Tigers left Minnesota with one important number: zero, as in zero injuries. It would have been nice to come away with a series victory, but the season is far from over after losing two out of three on the road to begin the year. The injury-riddled Yankees are just 6-9 at Comerica Park over the last three seasons, which is even more impressive considering that they are a combined 287-199 overall during that stretch. It might not be much warmer than it was in Minnesota just yet, but the bats should heat up enough to pick up a 'W' today.

Prediction

The Tigers take advantage of a tired Yankees squad and get back to .500.

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