Scherzer leads Cy Young trio into Bronx

The Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees open a four-game series in the Bronx Monday night (7 ET, ESPN), as both teams jockey with the Kansas City Royals for playoff position.

Detroit holds a seemingly safe five-game lead over second-place Kansas City in the AL Central. But that lead was 7.5 games on July 12, and the Tigers have gone 8-10 since.

The Yankees have lost five of their last eight games, and they're tied with Kansas City, 1.5 games behind the Toronto Blue Jays for the second wild-card berth.

Teams with 3 previous Cy Young winners
MLB history

Scherzer leads Cy Young trio

Beginning Monday night, New York will face three straight Cy Young winners in Max Scherzer, David Price and Justin Verlander. That feat isn't as rare as you'd think: The Cardinals did the same thing from June 28 to July 1, against Zack Greinke, Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum.

What is rare is a single team having each of the three previous Cy Young winners entering that season. With Scherzer (who won in 2013), Price (2012) and Verlander (2011), the Tigers join the 1997 Braves -- which featured John Smoltz (1996), Greg Maddux (1992-95) and Tom Glavine (1991) -- as the only teams to do that.

Scherzer has followed up his Cy Young season with another very good year, ranking in the AL top 20 in ERA, WHIP and strikeouts.

Max Scherzer

ScherzerScherzer's pitch selection has been a big factor in his improvement the past two years, as he's added a curveball that has made his slider even more effective.

Batters have missed 45 percent of his sliders the past two seasons, compared to 38 percent from 2009 to 2012. And opponents are hitting only .172 against his slider since 2013, down from .221 the previous four seasons.

In a small sample size, Jacoby Ellsbury has had the most success of any Yankee against Scherzer, hitting .462 (6-for-13), while Mark Teixeira (3-for-19) and Brett Gardner (0-for-14) have struggled mightily.

Gardner, McCarthy lead Yankees

Gardner has been hot lately, though, hitting eight home runs since July 1. The only player with more homers in that span is Houston's Chris Carter (nine).

This season, Gardner is hitting the ball farther and harder than he ever has before. His 2014 average home run distance of 389 feet and hard-hit average of .176 are both career bests for a single season.

Brandon McCarthy

McCarthyTonight is Brandon McCarthy's fifth start with the Yankees since being acquired from the Diamondbacks on July 6. New York has won all four of his starts, matching the number of his games that Arizona won in his 18 starts before the trade.

McCarthy is 3-0 with a 2.55 ERA for New York, after going 3-10 with a 5.01 ERA for the Diamondbacks. He's gone at least six innings in all four starts with New York, and he's allowed more than one earned run only once.