Masahiro Tanaka is still in the process of giving credence to his catcher's downplaying of spring training results. Justin Verlander has already been mentioned in the same sentence as "no-hitter" this year, though the two are coming off similar opening day no-decisions.
They square off for the first time Sunday night as the New York Yankees conclude a three-game series in Detroit with the Tigers hoping to recover from their first loss.
New York's 8-4 win Saturday followed Friday's 4-0 Detroit victory, so both teams are in position to open the season with consecutive series wins, something the Yankees (3-2) haven't done since 2011.
The Yankees got home runs from Alex Rodriguez and Carlos Beltran to bounce back from a three-hit effort in the series opener, while Brian McCann scored three times and is 7 for 15 to start the season after a third straight two-hit game. Starlin Castro also had two hits and is 9 for 20 to start his first season with the Yankees.
The temperature at game time was 31 degrees, the coldest in Comerica Park history, and the weather calls for 30s again with rain and snow on Sunday.
"It's not great weather conditions to pitch," said Yankees manager Joe Girardi, whose four starters since Tanaka have posted a combined 7.29 ERA.
Even so, the Tigers (3-1) had their bats quieted some with seven hits after managing at least 12 in their first three games, but they're still hitting .300 as a team. Jose Iglesias (7 for 16), Ian Kinsler (8 for 19) and J.D. Martinez (5 for 16) have hit safely in each game, which they'll try to keep up against an impressive arm.
Tanaka's spring ended with a 7.36 ERA after October surgery on his pitching elbow to remove a bone spur. The right-hander surrendered two runs and four hits in 5 2-3 innings of Tuesday's 5-3 home loss to Houston and drew praise from McCann, who added that he doesn't pay attention to spring numbers.
"I thought he threw the ball really well," McCann told MLB's official website. "He really had his sinker going today. Some really good movement, kept them off balance, pitched to both sides. I thought he threw the ball really well."
Tanaka, who was removed after 87 pitches, was slightly more critical.
"As we got deeper into the game, I felt like I lost the strike zone a little bit, so that's probably why I had to leave the game," he said through an interpreter.
Tanaka is 0-1 with a 4.76 ERA in two career starts against Detroit. J.D. Martinez is 4 for 6 with two home runs and two doubles in their matchups, and Victor Martinez is 2 for 5 with a homer.
In Tuesday's 8-7, 11-inning win in Miami, Verlander had a no-hitter going until a three-run sixth inning highlighted by a two-run Giancarlo Stanton home run. The right-hander gave up three runs and three hits with two walks and five strikeouts in six innings, but didn't earn the win after the Tigers blew a 5-0 lead.
His last four starts against the Yankees have resulted in a 0-3 record and 4.82 ERA with eight home runs allowed. Rodriguez has five home runs in 32 at-bats against Verlander, while Mark Teixeira (3 for 36 with 11 strikeouts) and Beltran (1 for 13 with four strikeouts) have struggled.
As for the weather, going from Florida to still-frozen Michigan isn't ideal, but Verlander might be used to it after some prep work Thursday.
"There was freezing rain during my bullpen," he tweeted.