The Yankees entered the four game series in Detroit on Thursday with a spectacular performance by Jose Contreras and Mariano Rivera. The pitching problems were solved right? Not even close. Mike Mussina is now on the DL and will miss at least three starts. Kevin Brown is still not off the DL and Randy Johnson is still pitching in Arizona. Pitching was the reason the Yanks split (2-2) with the Tigers this weekend.
Friday night Javier Vasquez took his 10-5 record to the mound to square off against Mike Maroth (who lost 20 games last year). The difference between the two pitchers were night and day, and not in the favor of Vasquez. Vasquez quickly gave up three runs in the second inning and couldn't make it out of the fifth giving up a total of eight runs (seven earned). Mike Maroth on the other hand, pitched nine innings of one-hit shutout ball. He earned his sixth win of the season and pitched the best game of his young career. Final score Tigers 8 Yanks 0.
Saturday the Yankees shuffled the lineup again and sent Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez to the hill. No, you are not reading a column from five years ago, El Duque is back and right now is just about the best pitcher the Yankees have. Hernandez was able to go five innings, giving up only three runs and striking out six. The big three then came in to nail down the victory. Paul Quantrill pitched 1 and a third scoreless innings. Tom Gordon went one and two thirds, striking out four of the five men he faced. Mariano Rivera nailed the saved with a perfect ninth inning. Offensively Gary Sheffield led the way with his 17th home run and 3 RBI. Ruben Sierra also hit a home run, giving him ten on the year. That home run also marks the 9th person on the Yankees this year to hit at least 10 home runs. Final Score Yankees 5 Tigers 3.
Sunday was Jon Lieber's turn in the rotation. He wasn't horrible, but he wasn't great either and Nate Robertson pitched a gem. Lieber allowed four earned runs over six and two thirds, and he allowed ten hits. Robertson went eight strong innings, allowing two earned runs and six hits. Ugueth Urbina came in to seal the game with a scoreless ninth inning. Final score Tigers 4 Yankees 2.
The Yankees are still seven games ahead of the Red Sox and are tied with St. Louis for the most wins in the Majors with 57. The Yankees go to Tampa for two games, then Toronto comes to the stadium for two games and then it is up to Boston for a three game weekend series. Alex Graman (0-0, 11.57) gets the call tonight against Rob Bell (3-3, 4.50), Jose Contreras (7-3, 5.17) faces Victor Zambrano (9-4, 4.37) in the final game of the series.