First Pitch: Justin Time?

April, 7, 2013
4/07/13
6:00
AM ET
DETROIT -- On paper, there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason to play today's series finale between the Yankees and the Tigers.

For one thing, the Yankees have now lost six straight to the Tigers, dating back to last Aug. 9 and including the ignominious four-game sweep in last year's ALCS.

For another, these aren't really the Yankees, anyway, just a slumping Robinson Cano and a collection of journeyman wearing rented pinstriped suits.

And for a third, Justin Verlander is pitching for the Tigers.

And yet, what might seem on paper like the strongest reason to give the Yankees no chance today may be the best chance for them to win.

Because as difficult as it may be to believe, Verlander, who is superhuman against just about everyone, has often been merely human against the Yankees.

And some of the pseudo-Yankees now holding down spots for the real Yankees have pretty good numbers against the world's best pitcher.

Lifetime, Verlander is 5-4 in 13 career starts against the Yankees with a 3.74 ERA. He has allowed them 83 hits in 77 innings, and 10 home runs. Last season, he was 1-1 against them with a 3.10 ERA. He allowed 25 hits in 20-1/3 innings and was touched up for four home runs in three starts.

Good numbers, but hardly overpowering, or even particularly frightening.

And while Cano (.226) has never had much success against V-Lander, Travis Hafner (.277, 13-for-47, 3 home runs), Ichiro Suzuki (.309, 17-for-55, 1 HR) and Vernon Wells (.348, 8-for-23) don’t find him to be such a bad day at the office. (Of course, most of those numbers were compiled in 2006, but what the hey?)

So if you want to find some hope on this April Sunday morning -- and if you can’t find some hope at this point of the baseball season, you might want to find another sport or another team -- this might be a source of it.

It pains me to mention that CC Sabathia, today’s Yankee starter, hasn’t been great against the Tigers, with an W/L 18-12 record but a 4.43 ERA. But that doesn’t really matter. If the Yankees are going to win today, and avoid a sweep by the Tigers, they’re going to have to light up Justin Verlander.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Do you think they can do it? And if so, why. Let us know in the comments section.

UP NOW: A column on just how bad things have gone for the Yankees in the first five games of their 2013 season, as well as post-game notes.

ON DECK: Clubhouse opens at 9:30 for today’s 1:05 p.m. start, Sabathia (15-6, 3.38 last season, 0-1, 7.20 in 2013) vs. RHP Verlander (17-8, 2.64 last year, 1-0, 0.00 in 2013). I’ll have lineups this morning followed by pre-game notes after Joe Girardi talks to us around 11 a.m., so check in around then. And as always, thanks for putting up with me.
Wallace Matthews has covered New York sports since 1983 as a reporter, columnist, radio host and TV commentator. He covers the Yankees for ESPNNewYork.com after working for Newsday, the New York Post, the New York Sun and ESPN New York 98.7 FM.
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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Jacoby Ellsbury
BA HR RBI R
.271 16 70 71
OTHER LEADERS
HRM. Teixeira 21
RBIJ. Ellsbury 70
RB. Gardner 81
OPSB. Gardner .750
WM. Tanaka 12
ERAH. Kuroda 3.77
SOH. Kuroda 137