ALCS Preview: Yankees Vs. Tigers
This sets up an interesting dynamic in this series because both teams will not use their star pitchers until at least Game 3 of this series. Before we take a look at this year’s matchup, let’s use the crystal ball to recap the Tigers and Yankees most recent playoff meeting in 2011.
Some (Recent) History:
Last season, the Tigers defeated the Yankees in a thrilling five-game series behind a final game victory by Doug Fister. This came after losing to current Pirate A.J. Burnett in a pivotal Game 4 in Detroit.
Verlander was dominant in his one start, with over 11 strikeouts while Ivan Nova took the bulk of the innings for the Yanks. Robinson Cano was red hot for the Yankees hitting .318 with two homeruns and nine RBI in only five games.
Guys like Delmon Young, Brandon Inge and Magglio Ordóñez carried the Tigers in the opening series all hitting over .300. Miguel Cabrera was pitched around for most of the series, but his presence was definitely felt.
During the 2012 Regular Season, the Yanks beat the Tigers six-of-ten times. New York has won two of the past three versus the Tigers but are only 4-3 at home. The big difference maker was CC, who posted a 3-0 record versus the Tigers this season.
This time around will be a different story, as Cabrera, Prince Fielder and the hot Austin Jackson will lead the attack for Detroit. The Tigers offense was quiet for most of their series against the A’s, but that had more to do with the A’s strong bullpen.
The Yankees, meanwhile, have a very similar lineup, with one huge exception, Jorge Posada has retired and Raul Ibanez has filled the DH role quite well for this team. The Yankees have relied on the long ball all season but did not receive much in that department throughout their series versus the Orioles (save Game 3’s two-homerun explosion).
As the series progresses, it will be intriguing to watch how the Yankees bats do against the hard-throwing Tigers rotation. Fister, Verlander, Max Scherzer and Aníbal Sánchez will take the bump for Detroit and these types of pitchers have given New York trouble in the past.
The biggest weakness for both teams lies in their bullpens. The Yankees bullpen is relatively untested and has been shaky when needed. Rafael Soriano has been sporadic and Joe Girardi, honestly, is praying for his starters to throw complete games because David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain and others have struggled to get outs consistently.
The Tigers bullpen, meanwhile, has blown a save this postseason and should have been two if not for a dropped pop fly by Coco Crisp. Joaquin Benoit and José Valverde have been inconsistent. Alex Albuquerque will be called upon numerously to get out the dangerous lefty hitters in the Yanks lineup.
Both teams looked sluggish in their opening round series, but now they have the chance to correct those mistakes and punch a ticket to the World Series.
What to do with A-Rod?
In the most important game of the season, Yankee manager Joe Girardi sat Alex Rodriguez in favor of Eric Chavez. Let’s face it: The Yankees need Rodriguez to contribute and they are paying way too much to have a bench player that occasionally plays DH.
The Tigers have a filthy rotation full of power arms, and Rodriguez has struggled lately against heat. Expect Girardi to give Rodriguez the nod in Game 2 against Sanchez, then ride him on the bench for the rest of the series.
Who can step up for Detroit?
Outside of Jackson, Cabrera and Fielder, the Tigers offense has been quite. Granted, these three are tremendous hitters, but the rest of the lineup must deliver in the clutch. Expect Alex Avila and Omar Infante to play a huge role in this series at the plate, or else the Tigers could be sent home packing.
Is Phil Hughes the answer?
Hiroki Kuroda, CC and Andy Pettitte will be solid starters in the series, the question becomes whether Phil Hughes can repeat his performance against Baltimore. Against the O’s, Hughes pitched 6.2 innings while only allowing one run.
In two starts this year against Detroit, Hughes is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA, which is actually quite reasonable. The problem for Yanks fans is that Hughes is set to duel with Justin Verlander in games three and seven.
If the Yanks want to break the hearts of Detroit, Hughes will need to go toe to toe with the best pitcher in the game.
I am taking the Detroit Tigers for three reasons. One Justin Verlander will pitch in Game 3 and 7, if needed, and he will make all the difference. Two, the Yankees are striking out way too much and will not be able to play the type of small ball to score runs.
Finally, having Fielder as the protection for Cabrera will give the Tigers the big bopper to force the Yankees to pitch to Cabrera. Expect Prince to have a similar impact that Young had last year in the ALDS.
Never underestimate the Yankees because of their pedigree and experience. I would even argue that the Yankees will be leading this series early. But I am picking the Tigers in six games.
Game 1: Saturday, October 13, 8:07 p.m., Yankee Stadium
Game 2, Sunday, October 14, 4:07 p.m., Yankee Stadium
Game 3, Tuesday, October 16, 8:07 p.m., Comerica Park
Game 4, Wednesday, October 17, 8:07 p.m., Comerica Park
Game 5, Thursday, October 18, 4:07 p.m., Comerica Park (*)
Game 6, Saturday, October 21, 8:07 p.m., Yankee Stadium(*)
Game 7, Sunday, October 22, 8:07 p.m. Yankee Stadium(*)