Detroit Tigers (68-45) at New York Yankees (57-56)
Time/Place: 7:05 p.m., Yankee Stadium
SB Nation blog: Pinstriped Bible
Pitching Matchup: RHP Rick Porcello (8-6, 4.28 ERA) vs. RHP Ivan Nova (5-4, 3.08 ERA)
Nova got off on the wrong foot in 2013, allowing four runs on five hits against the Tigers at Comerica Park on April 5th. Things didn't get much better for the 26 year old Dominican, who was placed on the disabled list with triceps inflammation in late April. He made a couple of relief appearances for the Yankees in May before being sent down to Triple-A Scranton Wilkes-Barre for a few starts.
Since returning to the majors in late June, Nova has been lights out. In seven appearances -- six starts and a 5 2/3 innings outing in long relief -- Nova has allowed a 2.15 ERA with a 3.69 strikeout-to-walk ratio. All six of his starts have been quality starts. In his last outing, he allowed just four hits in seven scoreless innings against the San Diego Padres, striking out eight while walking one.
One interesting thing about Nova is that his strikeout rate is continuing to climb to levels well above anything he achieved in the minor leagues. He struck out just over eight batters per nine inning last season, and is fanning over a batter per inning this season. Opposing hitters are whiffing on 10.5% of his pitches this season, up from 9.0% last season and 6.6-6.8% in 2010 and 2011. Nova has also cut down dramatically on his home run rate, a big reason for his success.
Porcello's four-game win streak was halted with a no-decision in his last outing against the Chicago White Sox. He was able to scatter eight hits in 7 2/3 innings while allowing just one run, but the bullpen was unable to make a one run lead stand up (though the Tigers eventually won in 12 innings). He did not face the Yankees during their trip to Comerica Park earlier this season, but is a respectable 3-2 with a 4.58 ERA against them in his career.
The end of an era?
You have to go back to the beginning of July to find the last time the Yankees won a series. They took two of three from the Baltimore Orioles at home after sweeping the Minnesota Twins in four games at Target Field. They were 48-40, five games behind the Boston Red Sox. Since then, the Yankees are 9-16 and have split or lost every series they have played. They are 11 games behind the Red Sox in the AL East and seven games out of the final Wild Card slot. They might have had a run in them if they were getting healthy, but they aren't. Curtis Granderson is back, but that's about it.
Nova has been the second best pitcher on the Yankees staff (behind Hiroki Kuroda) for the last six weeks. He has improved his numbers against both right and left-handed hitters and isn't allowing nearly as many home runs as he did last season. He has struggled against the Tigers in his career, allowing 17 earned runs in 17 1/3 innings with a 1.96 WHIP. Normally, I'd predict we see a pitcher's duel from two starters as hot as him and Porcello currently are, but weird stuff tends to happen whenever the Tigers kick off a series at Yankee Stadium.
Granderson homers off Porcello tonight and the streak ends at 12.