Jobu previews the ALCS matchup between New York and Detroit.
They say revenge is a dish best served cold. Well, the Yankees have had that dish cooling on the window sill for the last 53 weeks, so it should be nearly icy by the time they try to feed it to the Tigers tonight. It was just over a year ago that the Tigers eliminated the Yankees in the ALDS last season, and you can tell the Yankees are itching to return the favor in the ALCS this year. Can they do it? It certainly won’t be easy.
The Tigers are a great team. They struggled a bit this season, but played great baseball down the stretch to wrestle the AL Central crown from the White Sox. While the Tigers had the worst record of the American League playoff teams (88-74), they played very well against the Athletics in the ALDS, beating them in the fifth game with a huge shutout by Justin Verlander.
Although the Tigers have the Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder in the middle of that lineup, I believe that it’s their pitching that could get them past the Yankees in this series. First of all, they have the aforementioned Verlander going in games three and seven (if necessary). Any time you have to face that guy in a game seven, it is not a comfortable situation. I know the Yankees have a decent track record against him, but let’s not kid ourselves. The rest of their staff is pretty good too though. In this series, they will send Doug Fister to the mound in game two, Anibal Sanchez in game two, Verlander in game three and Max Scherzer in game four. Any one of those guys is capable of beating you every time they go out there.
The one thing about that rotation that may work to the Yankees’ advantage is that they are all righties. That means the Yankees can stack the deck with their best lefty hitters, who can hopefully work some counts, run up pitch counts and get to the Tigers bullpen early. That bullpen has been the Tigers’ main weakness in 2012. José Valverde is not that good, and he blew a big save in game four against the A’s. If the Yankees can somehow tread water until the bullpen comes in, they’re gonna have a good time.
The key for the Yankees is going to be getting their offense going. I know Baltimore didn’t fare much better than they did in the ALDS, but nine runs in the last four games of the series is pathetic (and really they only had two runs in the first eight innings of game one). The Yankees starting pitching did a wonderful job against the O’s, and hopefully they can keep rolling against Detroit, but it would be nice if they were able to get some help from the offense.
I know one thing: Raúl Ibañez better be in the lineup against every one of these righties. He’s been one of only a couple of offensive bright spots for the Yankees. They’re going to need him. It was also very nice to see Granderson finally corale his swing a little bit in game three. He hit the ball hard his first time up and later added a single and a big Geico home run. If he can carry this momentum into the ALCS, the Yankees should be in good shape.
The big question is what to do with the guys who are struggling. First of all, I’m frankly pretty tired of watching Swisher get key out after key out. He went 2-21 against the Orioles in the ALDS. The popular belief on Swisher is that he simply can’t hit good pitching. If that’s the case, then he’s in for a long October, because that’s what playoff teams have.
Finally, there’s the A-Rod question. I know he’s been extremely bad against righties in these playoffs, but I feel like he’s getting the Lion’s share of the blame for the struggles that a lot of guys had. I never heard anyone (except for me) clamoring for Swisher to get benched. Also, even though he got it together in game five, Granderson was even worse than A-Rod coming into the game (1-16), and he wasn’t even pinch hit for in the other games. I’m not sure why those guys, especially Swisher, didn’t get benched or pinch hit for. I know A-Rod is struggling, but it seems a little unfair. Anyway, will Girardi bench him against all these Detroit righties? I can’t see that happening every game, maybe just against the toughest of the tough (Verlander and Scherzer)? It will be interesting to see how Girardi deals with A-Rod in this series, and if Swisher will finally be pulled.
This one is really tough to call. First of all, the Yankees haven’t even set their rotation yet. All we really know is that Andy Pettitte will go in game one on Saturday night. The rest is up in the air. Do the Yankees turn to Kuroda on short rest for game two or do they send David Phelps up there? Do they bring CC back on short rest for game three or leave him for game four? (Note: The Yankees announced their rotation for the series shortly before publishing… check it out here.) I guess, if my back is against the wall, I’m going to say the Yankees win this series in six games. I really hope they do, because I don’t want to be facing Verlander in a possible game seven.
Featured image courtesy of: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images
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