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Tigers vs. Yankees series preview: Detroit hoping to steal road games against hobbled Yanks

The Yankees will be without several of their top players, including Giancarlo Stanton, for this early April series.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Washington Nationals
The Yankees will be without Giancarlo Stanton for this series, as the slugger was put on the 10-day injured list on Monday.
Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

If the Detroit Tigers are to shock the baseball world and compete for a playoff spot this season, they will need to take advantage of every little break that comes their way. This includes instances like last weekend’s series against the Toronto Blue Jays, who decided to hold Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (arguably their best hitter already) down in the minor leagues for an extra few weeks.

It also includes their upcoming series against the New York Yankees. While we can all agree that New York should have done better in their season-opening series loss against the Baltimore Orioles, the Yankees aren’t exactly playing with a full deck right now. They were without impact players like Luis Severino, Dellin Betances, and Aaron Hicks for that opening series, and are now down another star. Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton was placed on the 10-day injured list on Monday with a biceps strain, leaving the Yankees without two-thirds of their normal starting outfield early on in the season.

This may not matter in the end. The Yankees have a roster projected to be among the very best in baseball, and have enough depth to withstand some of these losses — case in point: they called up former top-50 prospect Clint Frazier to replace Stanton on Monday. They are also playing at Yankee Stadium, a venue where the Tigers (and many opposing teams) have historically struggled to pick up wins.

But until the Tigers fall out of the playoff race, we’ll continue to have some hope that they can make something of this 2019 season before turning it over to the prospects later on.

Statistical comparison: Tigers vs. Yankees

Overview Tigers Yankes Advantage
Overview Tigers Yankes Advantage
Batting (wRC+) 45 (14th) 156 (3rd) Yankees
Fielding (DRS) -3 (12th) -2 (11th) Yankees
Rotation (ERA-) 58 (3rd) 89 (6th) Tigers
Bullpen (ERA-) 89 (8th) 78 (6th) Yankees
Total fWAR 0.4 (9th) 1.6 (2nd) Yankees

These numbers don’t mean much after a single series of play, but are still fun to look over leading up to game time. The Yankees scored 15 runs in their three-game set against the Orioles, putting them slightly above the American League average of 4.25 runs per game through the opening weekend. They are tied for sixth in the league with four home runs, but well off the blistering pace set by the Seattle Mariners (15 home runs so far). New York will likely finish the season among the league leaders in most offensive categories — they were first in homers, first in wRC+, and second in slugging in 2018 — even if they are missing a starter or two at times throughout the year.

Game times, TV listings, streaming info, etc.

Game 1: Monday, Apr. 1, 6:35 p.m.
Game 2: Tuesday, Apr. 2, 6:35 p.m.
Game 3: Wednesday, Apr. 3, 4:05 p.m.
Venue: Yankee Stadium, New York, N.Y.
SB Nation site: Pinstripe Alley
Media (all games): Fox Sports Detroit, MLB Network (Game 3 only) MLB.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Yankees lineup

Player Pos. PA HR RBI wRC+
Player Pos. PA HR RBI wRC+
Brett Gardner CF 15 0 1 -12
Aaron Judge RF 15 0 2 156
Luke Voit DH 14 1 5 229
Greg Bird 1B 9 1 1 159
Gary Sanchez C 13 1 1 94
Gleyber Torres 2B 13 0 0 191
Miguel Andujar 3B 14 0 1 17
Clint Frazier LF - - - -
Troy Tulowitzki SS 9 1 1 264

The Yankees looked plenty comfortable at the plate in their season-opening series, collecting 28 hits across three games against the Baltimore Orioles. While they weren’t quite so efficient with their scoring — their 15 runs netted them just one win in the three-game set — they sport an absolutely lethal lineup capable of sending any pitcher to the showers early. Several hitters are off to hot starts, including Aaron Judge, Greg Bird, Gleyber Torres, and Luke Voit.

They will be without their hottest hitter for this series, though. Outfielder Giancarlo Stanton was put on the 10-day injured list on Monday with a biceps strain, an injury that seems to have surprised everyone. Playing in his place will be Clint Frazier, a former top-100 prospect who originally came up in the Cleveland Indians system before he was sent to New York in the Andrew Miller deal. Since joining the Yankees organization, Frazier has only played a handful of games at the MLB level. He has also missed time due to concussion-like symptoms, an issue that has plagued him intermittently throughout the 2018 season.

If there’s a hole to exploit here, it’s that nearly all of New York’s hitters are right-handed. Gardner and Bird are the only two players listed above who bat lefty, and I’m told something called a Mike Tauchmanstarting in left field on Monday — also swings left-handed. Bird will bat cleanup to open the series after hitting near the bottom of the order in the opening series. The Tigers don’t necessarily have the types of power arms capable of exploiting this platoon advantage, but starting the series off with a pair of right-handed starters can’t hurt.

Pitching matchups

Game 1: RHP Tyson Ross (8-9, 4.15 ERA) vs. RHP Domingo German (2-6, 5.57 ERA in 2018)

There was talk that the Yankees would use an opener on Monday to help Domingo German get deeper into the game, but that does not seem to be happening. The 26-year-old righthander sports a pair of plus pitches in his fastball and curveball, but little else after that. He induced a ton of strikeouts with his power stuff last season, but was otherwise very inconsistent. He worked 6 23 innings in his lone appearance against the Tigers last season, but took the loss after giving up four runs on seven hits and a pair of walks. Limiting those free passes will be key for German against a Tigers lineup that is bound to continue their free-swinging ways against his high-octane arsenal.

Game 2: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (0-0, 0.00 ERA) vs. RHP Masahiro Tanaka (1-0, 1.59 ERA)

Masahiro Tanaka got the call on Opening Day after Luis Severino went down with a late injury, but the veteran righty answered the bell with an excellent outing against the Orioles. Tanaka scattered two runs (one earned) and six hits across 5 23 innings while striking out five. He is coming off something of a bounce-back season in 2018, though his peripherals over the past two years hint that those seasons were not as different as the ERAs indicate. He did not allow a home run in his first outing this year, but has been rather home-prone over the past two seasons — he has given up 60 (!) dingers in his last 334 13 innings.

Game 3: LHP Matthew Boyd (0-1, 5.40 ERA) vs. LHP James Paxton (0-1, 1.59 ERA)

Paxton was a hard-luck loser in his Yankees debut, as his offense only put up one run while he was on the mound for 5 23 innings. Paxton’s defense also let him down, as an errant throw from Gary Sanchez led to an unearned run that left Paxton as the pitcher of record. Paxton himself looked solid, with just four hits allowed on a tidy 82 pitches in 5 23 innings. He dominated the Tigers in a pair of matchups last season, holding them to a .493 OPS in 54 total plate appearances.

What we’re rooting for: not in the face, Yankees

The Tigers did well to earn a split in their last series, and are facing a hobbled Yankees squad that will now be without Stanton and Miguel Andujar (among others), but New York still has the far more talented roster. Playing in Yankee Stadium is no joke either, and the Tigers are sending a pair of fly ball specialists into that cozy ballpark without the benefit of their starting center fielder to hunt balls hit into the gaps. Getting even a single win to head home at 3-4 would be a nice victory for the Tigers this week.