Detroit Tigers (69-46) at New York Yankees (58-57)
Time/Place: 1:05 p.m., Yankee Stadium
SB Nation blog: Pinstriped Bible
Pitching Matchup: RHP Justin Verlander (12-8, 3.50 ERA) vs. LHP Andy Pettitte (7-9, 4.71 ERA)
Pettitte was rocked in his last start, allowing seven runs on 11 hits in just 2 2/3 innings against the Chicago White Sox. It was easily his worst outing of the reason, and raised his ERA from 4.28 to 4.71. He had been on a bit of a roll before that, having allowed just eight combined runs in his past three starts.
While Pettitte's previous start was probably just a bad outing, it's worth watching to see how he holds up for the rest of the season. He's a lock to throw more innings than he has in any season since 2009. He already spent some time on the disabled list this year with a trapezius strain, and has a 5.32 ERA since returning in early June.
Like his colleague Phil Hughes yesterday, Pettitte has struggled at Yankee Stadium this season, particularly with the home run ball. In nine home starts, Pettitte has allowed nine home runs compared to just four dingers allowed in 10 road starts. He has a 5.40 ERA and 1.57 WHIP at home compared to a 4.19 ERA and 1.31 WHIP on the road. His strikeout rate is a batter per nine innings lower at home than on the road.
Unless Alex Rodriguez hits a walkoff home run, the biggest story in today's game is whether Justin Verlander can maintain the form he showed in his last start. Verlander was back to his "old self," allowing just one run on four hits and no walks in eight innings against the Cleveland Indians. He hasn't been particularly impressive at Yankee Stadium throughout his career, but today's opposing lineup is far less formidable than most of the batting orders he has faced in this park.
Fastball command will be huge for both pitchers today. Verlander has shown the ability to use his secondary stuff to get hitters out this season, but the Yankees won't let him off the hook like other teams have if he is wild. Meanwhile, Pettitte needs to spot his fastball to get outs, though it seems that pitch location doesn't really matter for one Tigers hitter.
Verlander keeps rolling and the Tigers win their sixth consecutive series.