A team with enough big-name stars to fill the sky returned to Yankee Stadium Monday night to thrill its fans with the power of celebrity and the promise of a deep run into October.
The Yankees were there, too.
The AL Central-leading Detroit Tigers brought the last three AL Cy Young Award winners to the Bronx in Max Scherzer, recently acquired David Price and Justin Verlander. Scherzer started Monday night against Brandon McCarthy. Price and Verlander will follow.
The Tigers also brought the best pure hitter in the game in Miguel Cabrera and longtime stars Torii Hunter, Victor Martinez and Ian Kinsler. They brought the active saves leader in Joe Nathan. They brought No. 4 and 5 starters in Anibal Sanchez and Rick Porcello, both of whom arguably would be the ace of the current Yankees' staff.
The Tigers have five aces. The $200-million-plus Yankees are trying to bluff their way to a wild-card spot with the deck seemingly stacked against them.
To McCarthy's credit, he pitched better than Scherzer, allowing one run, which was unearned, in 5 2/3 innings as the Yankees took the opener of the challenging four-game series, 2-1. "It won't get any easier tomorrow, but we played an outstanding game tonight,'' Joe Girardi said.
It could have been a Yankees blowout if not for a play-of-the-year candidate, a leaping catch on the warning track by Tigers centerfielder Ezequiel Carrera with the bases loaded and none out in the third inning.
The Tigers also brought The Bearded Wonder, Joba Chamberlain, who bear-hugged his amused former teammates before the game. With a Mike Napoli-style beard that could hide millions of midges, he looked more like a member of the 2013 world champion Red Sox than a former member of the clean-cut Yankees. The new Joba Rules don't include shaving for the liberated ex-phenom.
The Tigers hope to ride their starting rotation and top-heavy lineup to a World Series title. Deciding whether to open the playoffs with Scherzer, Price or Verlander likely will be rookie manager Brad Ausmus' biggest October headache. Girardi should have such problems.
"Being able to have two Cy Young winners and then [adding] another Cy Young winner," Chamberlain said. "I've been fortunate and blessed to play with a lot of great guys."
That includes Derek Jeter -- everybody's No. 1 baseball star right now, but mostly because he's leaving. The Yankees have a rotation so injury-ravaged that the announcement of David Phelps' trip to the disabled list with elbow pain was a major downer. Also, Mark Teixeira was scratched just before the game after feeling lightheaded.
The Yankees did get good news when Masahiro Tanaka reported no elbow pain after playing catch. But killjoy Girardi said "it's way too early" to tell if that means Tanaka can avoid Tommy John surgery.
You can understand Girardi's pessimism. He has five starting pitchers on the DL and a rotation of McCarthy, Hiroki Kuroda, Chris Capuano, Shane Greene and I Don't Know. Girardi is holding it together with duct tape and chicken wire.
Price, who makes his Tigers debut Tuesday night, said he has learned his new team is composed of "a close-knit group of guys . . . I just want to fit in."
Nice words from a star.
Speaking of stars . . . Verlander is dating supermodel Kate Upton. Among the Yankees, only Jeter can relate to that kind of star power. That by itself won't get you to October. But at least the Yankees, a game behind Toronto for the second wild card, are trying to keep the bright lights on in the Bronx a little longer.