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Game 109 Preview: Yankees at Tigers

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July 31, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Ivan Nova (47) throws a pitch during the first inning of a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE
July 31, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees pitcher Ivan Nova (47) throws a pitch during the first inning of a game against the Baltimore Orioles at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-US PRESSWIRE

New York Yankees (63-44) at Detroit Tigers (58-50)

Time/Place: 7:00 p.m., Comerica Park

SB Nation Blog: Pinstripe Alley

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

Pitching Matchup: RHP Ivan Nova (10-5, 4.53 ERA) vs. Justin Verlander (11-7, 2.63 ERA)

Nova faced off against Verlander on April 27th at Yankee Stadium and, as the old saying goes, lost the battle but won the war. He allowed 6 runs on 11 hits in 5 1/3 innings, but the Tigers' bullpen imploded late to give the Yankees a 7-6 victory. Since then, Nova has stumbled (5.87 ERA in May), peaked (1.26 ERA in June), then stumbled again (5.97 ERA in July). His month-by-month FIP and xFIP splits aren't as extreme, but there's no question that Nova has been very up-and-down in 2012.

One possible reason for Nova's inconsistency is the bandbox that he calls home. Nova is allowing a .932 OPS to hitters at Yankee Stadium but just a .781 OPS on the road. He is allowing fly balls at a 34.1% rate this season. If this continues tonight, his success may depend largely on the weather; if it's one of those warm summer nights at Comerica where the ball travels well, he could be in trouble.

For those worried about Verlander after two consecutive outings, you may want to avert your eyes this evening. Verlander is just 4-4 with a 4.17 ERA against the Yankees in his career, though slightly better at home (3-2, 3.86 ERA). If your stomach is still a bit queasy, the next sentence definitely won't help. Of all the Yankee hitters that give Verlander trouble, Curtis Granderson leads the way with a 1.056 OPS in 19 career plate appearances against JV.

What's new?

After taking two of three from the Tigers at Comerica Park in June, it's been nothing but lasershows at Yankee Stadium. Since June 1 (the start of the aforementioned series in Detroit), the Yankees are 35-21 with a +66 run differential. This blitzkrieg on the rest of baseball has largely been due to their offense, which has averaged almost 5 runs per game during this stretch. The pitching -- particularly Phil Hughes and Hiroki Kuroda -- has improved as well.

Oh, and now they have Ichiro, so that should be fun.

Outlook

Tonight's game is a tough one to predict. Verlander's tendency to struggle against the Yankees -- understandable, given their lineup -- combined with his recent slip-ups aren't exactly inspiring a ton of confidence. The Tigers' offense, meanwhile, has opened August with a bang, scoring 33 runs in 4 games. I don't think it's too bold to predict a slugfest tonight.

Prediction

Verlander slows down the Yankees enough to give the bullpen a shot to close it out, and they deliver this time.

Gameday Reading:

Tough Luck: Yankees Falling Behind in One-Run Games - Pinstripe Alley
Easier analysis for this post: Mariano Rivera is hurt.

Andy Pettitte, Alex Rodriguez making progress - HardballTalk, Drew Silva
Neither will be back for this series, but both should be fine for the playoffs.

The people in my section - It's About The Money
Still obligatory because we're playing the Yankees.

Game Graph: 58-50 - Walkoff Woodward, Josh Worn
This has nothing to do with tonight's game. It's just awesome.