Justin Verlander takes aim at a third straight win this evening when the Detroit Tigers start a three-game series with the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium.
This, of course, is the first meeting between the teams since Detroit ended New York's season in a decisive fifth game of the American League Division Series last year in the Bronx.
Verlander earned one of those wins in that series and has seemingly picked up right where he left off from last year's dual MVP and Cy Young Award winning season.
After going 0-1 in his first two starts, despite throwing at least eight scoreless innings in each one, Verlander has won his last two outings and was terrific in beating the Texas Rangers on Saturday. Verlander held the high- powered Rangers' lineup to an unearned run in six innings to lower his ERA on the year to 1.72.
"I'm obviously not satisfied with just throwing six, but I made my pitches when I needed to, kept them off-balance and we got the win," Verlander said.
Verlander will be facing the Yankees for the 11th time and is 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA against them. Since getting his only career win in New York on Aug. 16. 2007, however, Verlander is 0-2 with a 4.26 ERA in four starts since in the Bronx.
New York, meanwhile, will counter with righty Ivan Nova, who is 3-0 this season and has won his last 15 decisions dating back to last season. Nova's latest win came against the Boston Red Sox last Friday when he allowed two runs and seven hits in six innings.
"If you ask me who is the best pitcher in the world, I say me," said Nova, who hasn't lost since June 11 of last season. "You have to believe that. That's why you win so many games. I like to win, and like I say, every time I get a chance, that's what I go for."
This will be his first-ever start against the Tigers. However, Nova did face the Tigers twice in last season's ALDS, splitting those starts, including a loss in the decisive fifth game of that set that saw him exit after two innings with an arm injury.
The Yankees come into tonight's tilt after dropping two of three to the Rangers, including a 7-3 loss in Wednesday's finale.
Derek Jeter had two more hits to extend his hitting streak to 15 games, while Raul Ibanez had a solo homer and an RBI double for New York.
Jeter's 15-game hitting streak is his longest since a 16-game run from May 17- June 2, 2009. He's 11-for-17 over his last four games and is hitting a robust .420 on the season.
Phil Hughes (1-3) lasted just 2 2/3 innings and surrendered four runs on five hits in the loss.
"It's been frustrating," Hughes said of his start to the season. "Something has to change."
The Tigers have also been frustrated of late, and come into this series after getting swept by the Seattle Mariners following a 5-4 loss on Thursday.
Rick Porcello (1-2) gave up five runs on seven hits in 6 2/3 frames to take the loss. Miguel Cabrera hit his sixth home run of the year in the losing effort, as the Tigers fell for the sixth time in seven tries.
"We are all involved in this together and that is just the way it is. We have just got to get aggressive, take charge and get after somebody," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said about his team's losing streak.
The Tigers were 4-3 against the Yankees last season.