DETROIT – Whenever the New York Yankees come to town, there's an added draw to games inside Comerica Park. Whether it's the 27 World Championships, the pinstripe jerseys or just the collective national hate towards the franchise, the Yankees always pack the stands when they hit the road.
But this year the Yankees have an even greater attraction: Alex Rodriguez is back. The travelling circus of A-Rod since his return from the longest suspension in MLB history has taken a strange turn, as the 39-year-old is actually... hitting the baseball.
After four straight seasons of declining numbers, one of which was cut short by his suspension, Rodriguez sat out the entire 2014 season thanks to his role in baseball's PED era.
Now, after the Yankees fought so bitterly to get out of his expensive contract, A-Rod has emerged as the best hitter on the team through 12 games.
New York's aging offense is hitting just .236 as a whole, with only three players batting over .280. But A-Rod is mashing, posting a .316 average, .447 on-base percentage and four home runs.
On Monday, he'll stand in the box against Alfredo Simon, who retired Rodriguez in all four of their matchups before the suspension. A-Rod crushed the Tigers in his last full season, batting .375 with three homers and seven RBI in 24 at-bats against them in 2012.
Simon will look to build off his last start and cool A-Rod's hot bat.
First Pitch: 7:00 p.m. on ESPN
Simon tossed eight shutout innings against the Pirates last week, allowing just two hits in the win. The 33-year-old struck out only two batters, but used a mix of 11 grounders and 12 fly balls to cruise to a 2-0 start with Detroit.
Mark Teixeira owns the Yankees' best numbers against Simon, batting .429 with a home run and three RBI over 14 at-bats. New York bats .297 in 64 total at-bats against the righty.
CC Sabathia will take the mound for the Yankees after taking losses in each of his first two starts. Sabathia allowed four earned runs in 5.2 innings against Toronto to start the season, then allowed four earned runs in seven innings to the Orioles.
Miguel Cabrera is happy to see Sabathia back on the rubber, as he owns a lifetime .345 (10-29) average against the big lefty. Cabrera hit two home runs against the former ace and knocked in 12 runs.
Detroit enters this four-game series with the best record (10-2) in all of baseball through the first two weeks. The Tigers and Royals (9-3) are the only American League teams with fewer than five losses.
Brad Ausmus' lineup will look like this in the series opener:
Rajai Davis, CF
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Miguel Cabrera, 1B
Victor Martinez, DH
J.D. Martinez, RF
Yoenis Cespedes, LF
Nick Castellanos, 3B
James McCann, C
Jose Iglesias, SS
The Yankees, meanwhile, are coming off a three-game sweep of the Rays that brought them back to .500 on the season. New York is just one game behind the Orioles and Red Sox in the AL East Division.
Here's Joe Girardi's starting nine for Monday:
Jacoby Ellsbury, CF
Brett Gardner, LF
Alex Rodriguez, DH
Mark Teixeira, 1B
Carlos Beltran, RF
Brian McCann, C
Chase Headley, 3B
Stephen Drew, 2B
Didi Gregorius, SS
The series will resume with Game 2 on Tuesday, with Kyle Lobstein taking on Yankee fireballer Nathan Eovaldi.