Verlander bests CC to lead Tigers

Verlander bests CC to lead Tigers

DETROIT -- There was a time when CC Sabathia ruled this town. Whether he had a dominant outing -- good or simply mediocre -- the lefty didn't lose at Comerica Park, not for the first six years of this stadium's existence.

It's becoming a tougher and tougher place for him to pitch. The hitters he's facing make it so, and the new ones aren't making it any easier.

"I just want to get results to win games. I don't care who's pitching," said rookie Brennan Boesch, whose first career start against a Major League left-hander yielded a home run, a double and two runs scored in a 6-0 Tigers win over the Yankees on Thursday.

"I think the biggest thing is getting the win and winning the series. It was a grind today, and we grinded it out. That's the most important thing. We had a doubleheader last night, came in with an early game today. We could've dragged a little bit, and instead, we came out and played. That's what's a big deal."

That said, the pitching matchup was a big enough deal that manager Jim Leyland thought about it. Before Justin Verlander took the field, Leyland said he made a point to have someone remind his starter that he was facing the Yankees, not the great Sabathia.

Verlander didn't need the note. He insists after every big game that he never thinks about pitching against the opposing starter. Besides, he's pretty familiar with this matchup.

The last time Sabathia pitched here last April, Verlander started for Detroit and tossed seven scoreless innings. Sabathia outlasted him, but he gave up four runs over his eight innings and took the loss.

"I've had a bunch of matchups against marquee guys like CC," Verlander said. "You just learn to not worry about what they are doing. You go out there and pitch your game and make your pitches. Hopefully, your team can battle and scratch across some runs.

"We capitalized on a couple mistakes he made. Once that happens, once you get one or two runs, you can't expect much more than that off a guy like him. Seeing that, it's my job to go out and shut them down from there on out."

This time, they got six off Sabathia, his highest run total of any start this season, and knocked out nine hits. Yet he got through six innings in just 79 pitches, a sign of how aggressive the Tigers were against him.

They've swung early against him plenty of times over the years, but they connected often on Thursday.

The fact that Miguel Cabrera hit Sabathia isn't really much of a surprise. He was 5-for-8 with one home run and six RBIs lifetime off the Yanks' ace coming into the game, and on an overall tear for much of the season. That in itself was a big matchup, almost as much as Sabathia and Verlander.

Once Sabathia tried to follow two high fastballs with a sinker over the plate against him on a 2-1 pitch, Cabrera does what he often does with those pitches, taking it deep to right for his eighth home run of the year. That stretched the lead to 2-0 in the fourth inning.

The surprise arguably came four pitches later, when Sabathia tried to get Boesch on a 1-2 pitch and left a slider too far over the plate. Boesch drove it toward the right-field corner and watched it carry just over the fence for another solo shot.

Not only had Boesch never faced Sabathia until Thursday, he hadn't faced a left-handed starter in the Majors. Sabathia entered the day having held left-handed batters to a .203 average and four home runs since the start of last season.

Boesch's first at-bat against Sabathia was a second-inning double before Gerald Laird, 5-for-12 off Sabathia entering the day, had an excuse-me check swing that made contact and lofted a soft line drive into short right field for the game's opening run.

"Anything that finds a hole, I'll take it," said Laird, who doubled in Cabrera in the sixth inning to finish the damage off Sabathia after Cabrera doubled in two runs himself.

Verlander's win opposite Sabathia last year was Sabathia's only loss against the American League Central the whole season. This was his first start against the Central this year. More important to the Tigers, it earned Detroit its third win of the four-game series.

Verlander used up far more pitches, 119 over 6 2/3 innings, but he didn't allow a runner past second base. His lone solid base hit allowed was a sixth-inning double off the fence from Jorge Posada.

"He was really good," said Yankees slugger Mark Teixeira. "He threw a couple of fastballs to me at 98 [mph], and he was mixing in his curveball and changeup, which are two plus pitches. When he can do that, he's going to be pretty difficult to hit."

When he can do that opposite Sabathia, it's pretty difficult for Sabathia to win.

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.