Tigers, Yankees Battle For American League Flag

By: Bruce Marshall | Saturday, October 13, 2012
Andy Pettitte

Veteran Andy Pettitte will open the 2012 ALCS for the New York Yankees.

It wasn’t an easy road for either the Tigers or the Yankees to reach the ALCS, both pushed to five games in the division round.

But here they are again, meeting in the playoffs for the third time since 2006.  And for the Yankees, they’re hoping the third time is a charm after losing in the ALDS in both 2006 and a year ago against Jim Leyland’s Tigers.

For Joe Girardi’s squad, there also isn’t much time to rest after finishing up with the Orioles on Friday.  Game One will come Saturday night at Yankee Stadium, with veteran lefty Andy Pettitte getting the start against Detroit’s Doug Fister.

First pitch on Saturday night will be at 8:05 p.m. (ET), with TBS providing the TV coverage.

Right off the bat, there are a couple of interesting developments as this series opend.  First, neither of the respective aces on each staff, CC Sabathia (Yankees) or Justin Verlander (Tigers), will be pitching this weekend in the Bronx as each were involved in decisive games in the ALDS.  It looks like they will probably face off in Game 3 on Tuesday in  Detroit, and, if the series runs the distance, likely in Game 7 (which would be at Yankee Stadium) as well.

We’ll also see which of these teams can perform best about their respective aces, who combined for four of the six wins these sides recorded in their ALDS.

Also, there’s a good chance that Girardi might keep the slumping Alex Rodriguez out of the starting lineup as he did in the decisive Game 5 vs. the Orioles.  A-Rod, just 2-for-16 thus far in the postseason, was pulled for pinch-hitter Raul Ibañez (who proceeded to hit a game-tying homer in the ninth, then the game-winning homer in his next at bat) in Game 3 vs. Baltimore, then was pulled again in Game 4 before the benching in Game 5.

Expect Girardi to keep A-Rod on the bench at the outset vs. Detroit as well, considering how he went 2-for-18 in last year's ALDS vs. the Tigers, including going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts in a 3-2 home loss in the decisive Game 5.  And with Detroit likely to be starting all right-handers in this series, don’t be surprised if Rodriguez is on the bench quite a bit.

A-Rod is hardly the only struggling Yankee hitter at the moment, however.  Thus far in the postseason, Robinson Cano is 2-for-22; Nick Swisher is 2-for-18; and former Tigers OF Curtis Granderson is only 3-for-19, but did homer in a two-hit performance on Friday vs. the Orioles.

If the Yankees can’t hit, there will be extra pressure on the veteran southpaw Pettitte to keep the Bronx Bombers in the game.  But Pettitte looked sharp enough (despite getting tagged with the loss) in Game 2 of the ALDS vs. the Birds, allowing only three runs and seven hits while walking just one in seven innings, and he’s 19-11 during his career in the postseason.

Pettitte also pitched his best this season at home, recording a 1.85 ERA in seven starts at Yankee Stadium.  He didn’t face Detroit this season, and is 10-9 with a 3.66 ERA in his career against the Tigers.

Jim Leyland counters with Fister, no stranger to the Yankees after facing them in the playoffs a year ago.  Fister went 1-1 with a 6.52 ERA in two ALDS games against New York last year as he returns to the site where he prevailed in Game 5 by allowing one run over five innings. The Fresno State product faced the Yankees once this season, allowing two runs and eight hits over 6 1/3 IP of a 4-3 loss at Comerica Park on August 9 (a game in which Fister did not get a decision).

The Tigers righty yielded two runs over seven innings Sunday and did not get a decision in a 5-4 home win over the A's.

All eyes in this series are also going to be on Detroit’s Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, who turned in a season to remember with a .330 average, 44 homers and 139 RBIs. He went 5-for-20 with one RBI in the ALDS vs. Oakland, but is only a .179 hitter in 11 postseason games against the Yankees.

Cabrera has, however, hit safely in all 13 of his LCS games, batting .360 with six homers, 13 RBIs and 14 runs scored.  Now, however, he is protected in the lineup by 1B Prince Fielder, who will also be looking to improve upon his .192 postseason BA.

Detroit enters the ALCS hot, having won 11 of its last 15 games.  It has also been involved in lots of low-scoring games lately, with only one of its last nine 'over' in the process.  The Yankees won four of the season regular-season meetings, taking two of three in The Bronx in late April before splitting a 4-game set at Comerica Park in early August.  Five of the seven regular-season meetings went 'over' as well.

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