Yankees begin series against Tigers

The Yankees head to Detroit to take on the Tigers in a three-game series.|Art or Photo Credit: AP

Yankees ace Gerrit Cole overpowered the Tigers in New York late last month. He will look to repeat that feat when the Yankees play the opener of a three-game weekend series in Detroit on Friday.

Cole tossed six scoreless innings against the Tigers on April 30, limiting them to four hits and walking none while racking up 12 strikeouts.

The 30-year-old right-hander has dominated the opposition in two of his past three starts. Cole blanked the Tampa Bay Rays and struck out 12 over eight innings May 12. He gave up a season-high five runs in five-plus innings against the Texas Rangers on May 17 but bounced back with seven scoreless innings against the Chicago White Sox on Saturday.

Cole (6-2, 1.81 ERA) notched seven strikeouts vs. the White Sox and has 92 this year, the most by a Yankees pitcher through his first 10 starts in a season. In his latest outing, a 7-0 victory, he was aided by four double plays.

"We played our tails off on defense. That was fun to be a part of," he said. "We tried to force a couple of double plays and it worked out for us, which is exciting. For the offense to finish the day and give us a sizable lead was the cherry on top."

Cole got stronger as the game went along, topping out with a 100 mph fastball in the seventh inning.

"It's just a testament (to) how good he is at his craft," manager Aaron Boone said. "He made some solid adjustments early on in the game, started attacking the bottom of the zone with his heater. He really finished strong."

Cole is 6-1 with a 1.97 ERA in eight career starts against Detroit. He has been especially stingy against Tigers outfielder Nomar Mazara, who is 1-for-16 with 10 strikeouts against him.

Mazara didn't play in Detroit's 5-2 loss to the visiting Cleveland Indians on Thursday. He is batting .163 since coming off the injured list on May 8, having recovered from an abdominal strain.

"He's trying to get his feel back, his timing and his rhythm," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He's got a lot of moving parts with his timing mechanism. Right now, he looks a little bit early and a little bit late. And when you get on both sides of that timing issue, it's really difficult."

The Tigers are hoping that right-hander Casey Mize, the top overall pick in the 2018 draft, will become just as dominant as Cole in his career. Mize, who will oppose Cole on Friday, is showing signs of progress. In four starts this month, Mize is 2-0 with two no-decisions while posting a 1.73 ERA.

He held the Kansas City Royals to one run on three hits in 6 1/3 innings on Sunday. A walk-off homer against the Detroit bullpen prevented Mize (3-3, 3.42 ERA) from winning three consecutive starts.

The Tigers have lost five of their past six. The Yankees split a doubleheader against the Toronto Blue Jays on Thursday, losing the opener 2-0 and taking the nightcap 5-3.

The status of New York closer Aroldis Chapman is uncertain. He has been sick the past two days, though so far he has tested negative for COVID-19.

"We just believe he got a bug and think he's hopefully coming around," said Boone, whose team has won seven of its past nine games. "I'm hoping he'll be back (Friday)."