After a week, Tigers look average

By Rob Parker - Sports Columnist
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DETROIT - On paper, it looked like a mismatch, the making of a Tigers' sweep of the New York Yankees.

After all, Justin Verlander was on the mound for the Tigers. That's supposed to be almost automatic.

Plus, the Yankees, devastated by injuries to start the season, have a weak, make-shift lineup and were losers in four of their first five games.

But CC Sabathia, the Yankees' ace, made the Tigers look pretty average, not like the team most expect to bash their way through the American League en route to their second straight trip to the World Series.

The Tigers' 7-0 loss before a sellout crowd at Comerica Park on Sunday afternoon certainly didn't look or feel good.

It was the first time the Tigers had been shutout in 235 regular-season games.

The loss dropped the Tigers to 3-3 after their first six games. And while there's a long way to go, the start to the season wasn't quite what most expected, especially given the competition. Some experts expect both the Twins and Yankees to finish in last place in their divisions.

"You have to be careful," Tigers' manager Jim Leyland said. "That's why I've never emphasized fast or show starts. What happens if you emphasis a fast start and you don't get off to a fast start, you cancel the season in May or June?"

Still, with so much excitement around this team, you just thought there was a chance for an impressive start like a year ago when the Tigers were 9-3 out of the gate.

Plus, fans were teased when the Tigers pounded out 17 hits on Saturday. All that thunder with the bats just came crashing down.

"We had a big weekend," Leyland said. "And today seemed almost like a little bit of a blah.

"But the biggest key was Sabathia. He pitched really good."

To say the least, it was a strange start for Verlander (1-1). The hitting-poor Yankees got some good swing against the right-hander.

The Yankees plated three runs in the second inning. The big blow was a two-run homer off the bat of ninth-place batter Jason Nix.

"It was really one bad pitch," Verlander said. "Poor pitch selection and poor pitching execution on the same pitch doesn't usually end up well."

And it wasn't a cheapie, rather a blast, giving the Yankees a 3-0 advantage.

Although that was it against Verlander, it was a very disappointing outing. You just expect him to eat up a soft lineup like this. Verlander said he never sizes up a lineup and thinks he's in for an easy day.

"This is baseball," said Verlander, who gave up three runs on seven hits in 7 1/3 innings. "I don't care who they got missing. That's the Yankees. They have a winning mentality about them and they are going to find a way to win this year."

Still, you just wouldn't expect the seventh and ninth men in the order to bash a former Cy Young.

"You don't ever take anything for granted," Verlander said. "As you saw today, it was the bottom of the lineup that did the damage."

And not just to Verlander.

The bullpen has been an issue thus far. Coming into the season, most thought there were going to be some drama after the Tigers decided to not have a set closer and instead try to save games by committee.

 Phil Coke continued his early season struggle, giving up two runs in the eighth. It gave the Yanks a 5-0 lead.

Octavio Dotel gave up two more runs in the ninth inning.

New York had just 17 runs in its first five games. Here, the Yanks had seven runs on 13 hits.

Speaking of hitting, the Tigers have been inconsistent thus far. It seems to be feast or famine.

On Saturday, the Tigers had 17 hits against Yankees' pitching.

Against Sabathia, the Tigers weren't even able to get a runner past second base in seven innings of work by the southpaw.

"He was smart today," said Torii Hunter, who was 2-for-5 in the game. "CC pitched his butt off.

"There's an old saying, good pitching beats good hitting any day. And when you pitch like that, it's hard."

To do what most expected was going to be automatic -- a sweep of the limping Yanks.