(Reuters) - Adding another Cy Young hurler in David Price to the Tigers’ already stellar rotation provided a jolt of energy and optimism in Detroit’s bid for their first World Series crown in 30 years.
“It’s like a B-12 shot, it kind of pumps you up and rejuvenates you,” Detroit outfielder Torii Hunter told Reuters from the visitors’ clubhouse at Yankee Stadium about the trade that brought the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner to Motown from Tampa Bay last week.
Price joined fellow Cy Young winners Justin Verlander (2011) and Max Scherzer (2013) in Detroit’s starting rotation, giving the American League Central-leading Tigers the last three pitchers to be named best in the league.
While baseball historians debate how Detroit’s staff stands up to other great rotations, the youngest member of the starting corps cautioned against taking past success for granted.
“You don’t win a championship ... on paper, you win it on the field,” said 25-year-old Rick Porcello, Detroit’s least heralded starter despite an impressive 13-5 record this season.
For the hosting Yankees, the series was a case of another day, another Cy Young winner to face as Price pitched on Tuesday following Scherzer’s series-opening assignment, with Verlander slated to go on Wednesday.
“I‘m not sure I’ve ever heard of three Cy Young winners right on top of each other like that,” said Yankees center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
New York split the opening two games with Detroit winning Price’s start 4-3 in 12 innings. The hard-throwing lefty struck out 10 and walked none over 8 2/3 innings in his Tigers debut.
Thursday’s closing game of the series did not figure to get easier for a Yankees (58-54) team in the midst of a tight wild card race as 2013 AL earned run average leader Anibal Sanchez was taking his turn for Detroit.
Verlander, a veteran of two Tiger pennant winners, said the team would miss pitcher Drew Smyly and center fielder Austin Jackson, traded in a three-team deal that included the Mariners, but that effective pitching was the biggest factor in winning.
“You’re adding somebody with a track record like David Price but you’re losing two teammates that had been doggone good for us,” Verlander told Reuters from the Detroit dugout before Tuesday’s game.
“I think the organization feels this is a move to get us a World Series and they did it.”
Verlander, who also won AL most valuable player honors in 2011 and at 31 is the elder of Detroit’s rotation, said pitching could not be overvalued.
“It starts and ends with pitching. It’s monumental, the effect pitchers have on that given game,” the right-hander said.
”A batter can go out there and hit two homers and have four (runs batted in) but if the pitcher is horrible, they’re probably not going to win and it doesn’t matter.
“If the pitcher’s good that day and only gives up one run or no runs you’ve got a great shot to win.”
Hunter, a five-times All-Star in his 18th major league season, said he thought 28-year-old Price, who has a career mark of 82-47, might have even better days ahead.
“I’ve been an admirer of David Price, how much of a bulldog he is. He throws 93, 94, 96 (mph) whenever he wants to and rises to the occasion,” Hunter, 39, said.
”Playing down in Tampa, you probably don’t get that many fans. I wonder what he’d do with a sold-out crowd and a good lineup with Miggy (Detroit’s two-time AL MVP Miguel Cabrera) and Victor (Martinez) and all the other guys.
“I hated facing him. I’m so happy he’s on my side.”
Porcello said Price’s contribution can go beyond his own performances on the mound.
“I’m really looking forward to playing with him. I can’t wait to pick his brain and learning whatever I can from him.”
The young right-hander said he has gotten a lot out of talking strategy on the bench with his fellow pitchers.
“It’s a really fun rotation to be a part of, there’s a lot of really smart and intelligent pitchers on our staff that I can benefit from,” he said.
“When we’re in the dugout we’ll go over pitch selection. We’ll go back and forth (predicting), ‘Curve ball here, throw a changeup here, an elevated fastball’ ... stuff like that. It helps, because your brain is always going and you’re always thinking about how to attack these hitters.”
Lee Mazzilli, who played 14 seasons in the major leagues and managed the Baltimore Orioles in 2004 and 2005, conceded how impressive Detroit’s pitching is, but said from his seat up in the press box that nothing is certain in baseball.
“I’ve seen great teams with good pitching, but the team that gets hot in a short series is the one to be reckoned with,” Mazzilli said.
“The beauty of baseball, is that it is so unpredictable. That’s what makes it so exciting.”
Porcello said teams don’t win on reputations.
“It’s nice to read all the names that we have on the roster but you have to go out there and deliver,” he said. “People aren’t going to just bow down to you. We’re going to have a target on our backs.”
Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Frank Pingue