Two of the best pitchers in the American League will be on display Thursday at Yankee Stadium when the 2011 baseball campaign begins with a contest between the Detroit Tigers
and New York Yankees
. The matchup will be the first game of an ESPN Opening Day tripleheader starting at 10 a.m. (PT).
Most offshore sports books monitored by the Don Best Sports odds product have opened New York, with CC Sabathia on the mound, as a 145 home favorite against Justin Verlander and the Tigers. The total opened at 8 ‘under’ (minus 115).
Though the exhibition season doesn’t historically mean much when the regular campaign rolls around, it is interesting to note that the Tigers and Yanks met Tuesday in the last preseason game for both teams.
Both clubs played their regular’s for the first seven innings, with the Yanks registering a 2-1 victory as 140 home favorites.
That low-scoring affair could be a precursor to Thursday afternoon’s opener when Sabathia and Verlander hook up in what should be quite a pitching duel.
Sabathia, who has led the American League in wins the past two seasons, was 21-7 last year with a stellar 3.18 ERA. The 6-foot-7 southpaw fanned 197 batters and walked 74 in 237 2/3 innings.
Verlander, who had a marvelous exhibition season with a 0.67 ERA in four starts, was 18-9 with a 3.37 ERA during the 2010 campaign. The 28-year-old hard-throwing right-hander also registered 219 strikeouts and walked 71 in 224 1/3 innings.
These two hurlers met once last season (Aug. 17), with the Yankees recording a 6-2 victory as 175 home favorites. Though the combined eight runs barely skipped ‘over’ the 7 ½-run closing total, the ‘under’ is 8-3 in the last 11 series meetings between the Yanks and Tigers.
The win lifted the Yankees to a 27-10 ledger in the last 37 matchups against Detroit at Yankee Stadium. That includes taking three of the four home meetings last season and outscoring the Tigers 27-15 in the process.
Sabathia tossed seven innings in that Aug. 17 game against the Tigers and allowed two runs on seven hits while fanning nine and walking two. The two runs allowed were courtesy of solo homers by Austin Jackson and Brandon Inge.
Verlander was tagged for three runs on five hits, but lasted just five innings. He walked five and fanned five and allowed home runs to Robinson Cano and Curtis Granderson.
Verlander may not have to worry about Granderson in Thursday’s opener. The former Tigers centerfielder is listed as “questionable” with a right oblique injury.
New York ranked 15th in the major’s with a 4.06 ERA and 21st with just 83 quality starts. The defense was a strong suit, as the club committed an American League-low 69 errors.
Offense shouldn’t be too much of a problem for the Yanks. After all, they ranked first in that category last season by averaging 5.27 runs per game. New York ranked fifth with a .267 batting average and third in home runs (201).
Joe Girardi’s Yanks were 52-29 at home, 64-40 versus right-handed starters, 20-19 in one-run games and 7-7 in extra-inning affairs last season.
Detroit failed to adequately protect Miguel Cabrera in its lineup last season. However, the club addressed that problem by signing Victor Martinez as a free agent. The switch-hitting catcher hit .302 in 127 games with the Red Sox last season and added 20 homers and 79 RBI.
Ironically, Martinez was Sabathia’s catcher when they both toiled for the Cleveland Indians a few years ago.
Jim Leyland’s Tigers must improve on their dismal 29-52 road ledger if they are to be taken seriously in the AL Central. The club was 26-21 against southpaw starting hurlers, 16-26 in one-run games and 7-8 in extra innings.
The early weather forecast for Yankee Stadium calls for mostly cloudy skies and a 60 percent chance of showers. The wind will be out to right field between 12 and 17 MPH. The game-time temperature will be around 40 degrees.
This three-game series will continue Saturday afternoon with New York’s A.J. Burnett scheduled to face Detroit’s Brad Penny.