Urgency abounds as Yanks face TigersNew York (71-56) at Detroit (68-59), Friday, 7:05 p.m. ET
Having dropped two of three to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim to open a seven-game road trip, the Yankees need to keep their focus and avoid a similar fate in their first trip of the season to the Motor City.
"Sheff is frightening, there's no question," Yankees manager Joe Torre said. "He's such an aggressive hitter. They do a lot of things -- they have [Placido] Polanco back in the lineup, and he's such a huge part of what they do. [Magglio] Ordonez is back in the lineup and he's having one of the career years that it looked like he was having every year when he was with Chicago."
In other words, there's plenty more for the Yankees to keep a close eye on as they walk into the Tigers' den for a four-game series. Good thing, then, that they got some momentum back on Wednesday in Anaheim.
"You didn't want to be swept out here, especially heading into the off-day, and we have to go to Detroit," said Andy Pettitte, who snapped the Yankees' slide. "It's going to be another big series and they're going to be tough. We just have to keep going."
Pettitte will be the only Yankees starter not pitching in the Detroit series, leaving the load to Roger Clemens, Chien-Ming Wang, Phil Hughes and Mike Mussina as the Bombers try to match their results from last weekend in New York.
The Yankees made the Bronx an inhospitable place for the flu-ravaged Tigers to visit, beating Detroit in three out of four games to help their own climb toward the top spots in the AL East and AL Wild Card.
"Every game is big," Derek Jeter said after the win over the Angels. "It's easy to say we needed it because we lost the first two, but even if we won the first two, you need to win this game. That's the approach we're taking every day. It's like every game is a must-win from this point on."
After floundering behind injuries and inconsistency for a great deal of the first half, the Yankees have pushed back into contention, though their work won't be complete unless they continue to play tough clubs with poise.
New York has won 11 of its last 14 series, and Torre believes his club is at its best right now.
"Whatever the results are, we know that we're ready to play," Torre said. "We're competing very well and we beat good teams. We know that we still have a lot of work to do, because we dug ourselves a huge hole. We're playing right now with a lot of confidence and I think our ballclub, ability-wise, is the best it's been all year."
Whether that translates to victories against the Tigers, the team that crushed the Yankees' playoff run last October on the way to the World Series, remains to be seen.
"We've got a tough four games in Detroit," Jorge Posada said. "Hopefully we can just carry it over. Now we're going to their building."
NYY: RHP Roger Clemens (5-5, 3.92 ERA)
Despite giving up 10 hits, Clemens pitched effectively against the Tigers on Saturday at Yankee Stadium, allowing two earned runs. The Rocket struck out eight batters without issuing a walk, and would be pleased with more of the same as he makes his 14th start for New York.
DET: LHP Andrew Miller (5-4, 4.42 ERA)
Miller hasn't pitched for the Tigers since Aug. 3, when he left a game with a sore hamstring while warming up for the fifth inning. He made two rehab starts with Triple-A Toledo and had a 9.00 ERA in six innings. This is Miller's first career start against the Yankees, although he did make his Major League debut last August in Yankee Stadium, where he pitched one inning of scoreless relief.
Player to watch
Brandon Inge is 5-for-10 against Clemens. The only Tiger who has hit the Rocket better is Sheffield, who is a dangerous 11-for-18 against Clemens but is believed to be inactive for the series because of an injury.