DETROIT -- It is not 11 in a row, but it is impressive. The New York Yankees are rolling into the Subway Series, playing high-level baseball again after winning six of their last seven games.
When the Yankees arrived at Comerica Park on Monday, Detroit owned baseball's best record. By the time the Yankees left on their private jet home Thursday afternoon, they took with them a series win (three out of four) and a little of the Tigers' pride.
The Yankees (9-7) were eager to head east, looking forward to trying to strip the title of baseball's best team from its current holder, the -- as Alex Rodriguez puts it -- "sizzling hot" New York Mets.
"It is going to be awesome," said Rodriguez, who sat out his first game of the season as Joe Girardi geared him up for the Subway Series and then three with the Tampa Bay Rays on this homestand. "The stadium should be rocking. Our fans are ready and their fans are ready, too. It is fun for the players and even more fun for the fans."
It wouldn't be much fun for Yankees fans if they hadn't just played so well on this 10-game trip. It started out with two losses in three games and ended 7-3 overall. Most impressive is that the Yankees were winning games in a variety of ways, utilizing professor A-Rod's four facets of baseball.
On Thursday -- in frigid weather reminicient of late October -- the Yankees, with just three hits, used Jacoby Ellsbury's legs to eke out the runs they needed on a balk and a groundout, and Masahiro Tanaka continued to quiet concerns about his pitching in a 2-1 victory.
"He is the same as last year," catcher Brian McCann said of Tanaka, whose ERA after his 6⅓ innings of one-run ball, dropped to 3.22.
But what might be most important is how good the Yankees bullpen looks. The D-Train, Dellin Betances, seems like he is back (if he ever really left) and Andrew Miller is having no trouble in the closer's role.
While the Mets have starting pitching that makes you think they might be for real, the Yankees have ending pitching that makes you think they might be a better than a .500 club.
Betances -- who struggled during spring training -- and Miller, along with their supporting cast, make it possible for the Yankees to win games 2-1, as they did against the lethal Tigers lineup Thursday.
"We have as much power as I've ever had," Girardi said of his bullpen. "It has a chance to be really special."
Ellsbury has not been special as a Yankee, but on Thursday he demonstrated how he can help win a game by himself. In the sixth inning, it was his aggressive lead off third base and threat to steal home that forced Anibal Sanchez to balk, which tied the game at one.
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told crew chief Gerry Davis that he gave the Yankees the run. Davis threw out Ausmus.
"He started his delivery and then stepped off the rubber to throw home," crew chief Gerry Davis said, explaining the call after the game.
In the eighth inning, Ellsbury sprinted out of the box for a double on a ball hit a little to the left of center field. He came around to score on a McCann groundout.
He gave Miller the run he needed for the save. Miller struck out Miguel Cabrera, forced Victor Martinez to ground out and then finished the road trip by striking out J.D. Martinez. Miller is 6-for-6 in save opportunities.
Girardi is trying to use Betances in fewer multiple-inning outings than last year, because he wants Betances available as much as possible. Betances needed just 18 pitches to pick up his four outs, beginning in the seventh when he and Justin Wilson cleaned up for Tanaka.
Now, it is on to play the Mets in a series that had lost its juice in recent years because of the Mets' ineptitude and the staleness of the series. That is not true this weekend.
With Rodriguez just two home runs shy of Willie Mays' 660 and the Mets playing the best baseball anywhere, it should feel a little special again.
"It is always fun to play the Mets," Rodriguez said. "It is one of the things that I missed most when I was gone for such a long time. It gives us an opportunity to celebrate a great game in front of all New Yorkers."