Last year and in 2006, the Tigers ended the Yankees' season. They own a Triple Crown hitter this year, and now the Yankees want to make sure they don’t have another sort of triple accomplishment.
The Yankees took the 2012 regular-season series from the Tigers, winning six of 10 games, but the only games anyone will remember are the ones that will be played over the next week.
So let’s get to the Yankees' issues going into the American League Championship Series.
1. Who’s on third?
The Tigers are expected to throw four right-handed starters at the Yankees, which could mean more designated sitter time for Alex Rodriguez.
The guess here is Rodriguez will get a chance to contribute but it will be a small chance. Eric Chavez could have taken control of the job for the rest of the playoffs with a good game Friday. But he didn’t, going 0-for-3.
In Game 1, the Tigers are expected to start Doug Fister. Rodriguez has faced Fister nine times and has just one hit. Chavez has three hits in 11 at-bats.
Everyone keeps talking about the shift in the status of A-Rod and his relationship with Joe Girardi. If he doesn’t start Game 1, who knows how much action he will receive in this series?
Keep in mind, the fragile Chavez has not done too well playing too many consecutive days, so it probably is a matter of when, not if, A-Rod starts in the ALCS.
The guess here is Game 1.
2. Who starts Game 2?
The Tigers are going to go with Anibal Sanchez in Game 2. The Yankees? Well, that is a mystery at the moment. Girardi declined to say even who the options are for the start.
Andy Pettitte will start Game 1, so Hiroki Kuroda would start Game 2, right? No, Kuroda likely won’t go because he last pitched Wednesday. The Yankees were concerned about Kuroda wearing down, so it seems highly unlikely he will go with one fewer day of rest than normal.
The No. 1 option is probably David Phelps. Phelps was 2-2 as a starter with a 3.77 ERA. When he was asked about the possibility, he said, “This is the first I heard of it.”
If the Yankees were to go with Phelps, it might change the complexion of their postseason roster because they might need another long man, possibly putting Ivan Nova or Freddy Garcia into play. However, they both got crushed when the Tigers saw them this season.
Derek Lowe could be in play to start, but he isn’t that stretched out so he seems likely to remain in the 'pen.
3. Justin and CC on the sidelines
After the mystery Game 2 starter, the Yankees could go with Kuroda in Game 3 and CC Sabathia in Game 4. They could flip flop those two if they want to test Sabathia’s limits. Sabathia led the Yankees to the World Series in 2009 throwing on short rest throughout.
A Game 3 matchup would pit Sabathia versus Justin Verlander. Verlander can pitch Games 3 and 7.
Most likely, Girardi will hold his cards, waiting to see where the series stands before deciding on his Game 3 starter. Even if Sabathia started Game 4 on normal rest, he could go on short rest in a possible Game 7. This is probably the most likely setup.
4. Triple Crown threat
The Yankees' starters were 2-1 with a 2.04 ERA against the Orioles in the AL Division Series, but there is no one in the Baltimore lineup like Miguel Cabrera or Prince Fielder. They are two of the most lethal hitters in this series, and if the Yankees are going to beat the Tigers, they will need to neutralize them.
5. Whither Swisher?
With another 0-for-3, Nick Swisher finished the division series at .111 with just two hits in 18 at-bats. He has a .148 average in 168 postseason at-bats.
“You are making this about individual numbers,” Swisher said. “It is all about wins and losses.”
Swisher has to start hitting, or it is possible Girardi could rearrange his outfield. Raul Ibanez could play in the field, opening up the designated hitter spot for someone else.