The Detroit Tigers will face the New York Yankees in the ALDS starting Friday night in the Bronx. The Tigers did their part on Wednesday night but thanks to a Mike Napoli 2-run homer in the top of the 9th, the Texas Rangers snuck out home field advantage over Detroit and will play the wild-card winning Tampa Bay Rays.
The Tigers finished the regular season 95-67 and 15 games up on the Cleveland Indians in the AL Central. Meanwhile, the Yankees wrapped up the AL East with a 97-65 mark, 6 games ahead of the Rays.
This series will be a rematch of the 2006 ALDS in which the Tigers upset the Yankees 3 games to 1. The Yankees held home field advantage in ’06 as well.
Jim Leyland has predetermined his postseason starting rotation while Joe Girardi is still debating how his will shake out.
Leyland is going with Justin Verlander and Doug Fister in games 1 and 2 in New York. Max Scherzer will pitch game 3 in Detroit. If game 4 in Motown is necessary it will be 22-year old Rick Porcello on the bump and Verlander would pitch game 5 back in New York, should the Yankees be fortunate enough to get that far.
Girardi will throw CC Sabathia in game 1 against Verlander and rookie Ivan Nova will oppose Fister in game 2. The 3rd starter has yet to be determined but you can bet the house that it will be Freddy Garcia, a soft-tosser who generally has his way with the Tigers. AJ Burnett and Bartolo Colon are also in consideration but certainly cannot be trusted come playoff time. Update: Garcia will be the game 3 starter, Burnett will pitch out of the pen and Colon might be left off the roster altogether.
Girardi will start Sabathia on short rest if necessary; something Leyland is unwilling to do with Verlander.
Both teams have prolific offenses. Detroit features MVP candidate and AL batting champion Miguel Cabrera (.344, 105 RBI’s) and his bodyguard, Victor Martinez (.330, 103 RBI’s) not to mention Jhonny Peralta (86 RBI’s) and Alex Avila (82).
The Yankees boast fellow MVP candidate Curtis Granderson (41 homers) and a few other intimidating presences as well. Mark Teixeira (39 HR’s) and Robinson Cano (28) also help carry the mail. Derek Jeter (.297 avg.) has had a strong bounce-back year and Alex Rodriguez, despite a sore knee, is always dangerous.
And if these similarities between the two teams weren’t enough, they also roll out 2 of the best setup men and closers in baseball.
Jose Valverde was a perfect 49 for 49 in saves in 2011 and Joaquin Benoit got the ball to him with great effectiveness from June through the end of the season. In much the same manner, David Robertson has more than effectively passed the baton to the all-time saves leader Mariano Rivera.
Without question, this series will be the marquee round 1 matchup throughout the playoffs.
Detroit has the overall pitching edge thanks to the dominance of Doug Fister since his arrival at the trade deadline. Offensively, New York has a slight advantage but the Tigers can score with anyone, and over the last 2 months, they have.
The silver lining that shines through the Tigers dropping the battle for home field advantage is how the pitching shakes out.
Leyland will now throw his 2 best pitchers in the closet known as Yankee Stadium. His lesser known commodities (Scherzer and Porcello) will pitch in the spacious Comerica Park. This will most benefit Scherzer, who has a propensity to give up the long ball. Long fly balls that are homers in New York generally nestle into the glove of Austin Jackson in Detroit.
The Tigers have been one of the hottest teams in baseball since the trade deadline. They have the best pitcher in the game, not to mention the best first baseman, both of whom are likely top 3 MVP finishers. The Tigers also have the hottest closer and a lethal designated hitter.
This team is hungry and should beat the Yankees regardless of where home field advantage rests. In the preseason I predicted both of these squads to make the playoffs. Now that it has played out, I truly feel that the Tigers are the better team.
Look for the Tigers to win this series. I could see it being as easy as a sweep or as long as a full 5-game series. Whatever the case, playoff baseball is finally here, and all is right with the world.