Yankees win another from the Tigers CY Young trio and then there is Capuano

By Rich Mancuso

It was the first time a team has faced the last three CY Young Award winner’s three straight games. And the New York Yankees were not intimidated in the Bronx this week facing Max Scherzer, David Price and Justin Verlander Wednesday night. It was supposed to be a mismatch and like a good prize fighter the Yankees have prevailed.

Verlander may not be as dominant with the fastball. Chase Headley and Brian McCann hit solo home runs off Verlander the 2011 Cy Young Award winner, two of his five hits in seven innings. Chris Capuano is the other story for the Yankees, their acquisition before the non-waiver trading deadline who has quickly adapted to being in Yankees pinstripes.

Yet, Capuano was not supposed to be the better pitcher Wednesday night in the Yankees 5-1 win over the Tigers. He is one of 11 pitchers to make at least one start for the Yankees this season and has become an unexpected boost to a pitching staff that has been decimated with injuries.

 With a series finale Thursday afternoon, the Yankees have a chance to take the four-game series. Forget the Cy Young Award Trio theme of this series, because if the Yankees win the finale they definitely are serious contenders to make this an interesting stretch run for a spot in the post season. Again they will be the underdogs, opposing Rick Porcello who is tied for the league lead in wins with 13.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi was not surprised. He has seen the Capuano fastball get better, even as the left-hander struggled last year with the Dodgers, and earlier this season before he was released by the Red Sox.

 "I’ve seen him do this before,” Girardi said. "And that was one of the reasons we went and got him. If I'm not mistaken, he did it to us last year here. So I mean, he does know how to pitch, and he gave us a great performance tonight. He knows how to change speeds. He knows how to move the ball in and out.”

Capuano had a better curveball than Verlander, and his changeup was just as effective. It has been the fastball that was losing some momentum, though it has been a pitch that has improved in the last year.

The fastball had a velocity and location that confused reigning two-time AL Most Valuable Player Miguel Cabrera, swinging at a third strike leading off the Tigers sixth inning. Capuano would strike out four of the next seven he faced. After two consecutive strikeouts in the seventh, Capuano yielded two singles and his night was over with the score tied so he did not get the decision.

He tossed 7-0 innings and struck out eight in his third start as a Yankee, and the eight strikeouts were his most since August 17, 2012 against the Braves when he was with the Dodgers.  To say the least, with Michael Pineda almost ready to return from another long stint on the disabled list, Capuano is surely going to be in the mix to get more starts.

Why not? He is a veteran and the Yankees took their chances. He has proved to be that worthy commodity and as the Yankees know, you never have enough pitching. He gave up an unearned run and five hits in 6 2/3 innings and walked one.

 The 35-year-old Capuano was picked up from Colorado this past month, after his brief stint with the Red Sox. He got a standing ovation when he left the mound.

“Kind of have to reset the button and go back to basics but to get a chance to be here and play for these guys it’s great,” Capuano said about putting on the pinstripes. “I was scheduled to be on a plane to go to Denver, I get the call and two days later I was pitching at Yankee stadium.”

He added, “It’s been exciting. Having the fastball and having the command makes a difference.” It helps that he is on the right team. Boston and Colorado are rebuilding for next year and the Yankees are in the thick of a wild card race, and the division crown is still within reach.

He faced Verlander who has been struggling with an ERA over 4.00. This was supposed to be a mismatch and Capuano had the better command. "Justin maybe didn't have quite the velocity on his fastball, but he was really pitching tonight,” Capuano said. “He was making great pitches all night. It was big to win that game and have a chance to win the series tomorrow."

It also helps that Capuano now has an all star commanding center field. Jacoby Ellsbury preserved a 1-1 tie in the sixth inning taking away an extra base hit from J.D. Martinez with a leaping catch in front of the Yankees bullpen in right that ended the sixth inning.

“Pure joy,” Capuano said with a smile. On this night, the newest Yankees pitcher looked like the Cy Young Award winner.  

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