At long last, the League Division series, which rewrote the definition of awesome playoff baseball, has concluded. In five games, the Giants, Cardinals, Yankees, and Tigers will play for their respective pennants. It was a week unlike any other – from the Giants’ stunning comeback against the Reds by winning three straight on the road, to Raul Ibanez’s heroics, to Justin Verlander dominating, to the Cardinals desperate ninth inning rally to survive the Nationals.
After all of that, how can you not be excited for the League Championship Series?
Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees
Schedule: Game 1 – Sat. 8:00 PM, @NYY; Game 2 – Sun. 4:00, @NYY; Game 3 – Tue. 8:00, @DET; Game 4 – Wed. 8:00, @DET; Game 5* – Thu. 4:00, @DET; Game 6* – Sat. 10/20, 8:00, @NYY; Game 7* – Sun. 10/21, 8:00, @NYY
The lack of an off day in between the conclusion of the Yankees’ LDS and the beginning of the Championship Series means that CC Sabathia will have to pitch on three days of rest at least once in this series, if the Yankees want to use him twice. The Tigers are in a similar situation with Justin Verlander, who was dominating in closing out the Athletics, but at the cost of having him pitch in Game One of the ALCS. Neither team’s pitching situation is ideal, but Joe Girardi and Jim Leyland will not make any excuses for it. Both teams had at least one game in hand to close out their opponent in the first round, and could not close the deal quickly.
Instead, we get a series that will hopefully feature more offense than the Yankees-Orioles series. From the Tigers’ end, it’s hard not to see why not. While Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder struggled against Oakland, Omar Infante went 6/17 and scored six runs. It can be assumed that Fielder and Cabrera will not be silenced for long. Cabrera has played 40 regular season games against the Yankees, hitting 15 home runs with a batting average of .356. The last time the Yankees and Tigers met up, a four game series in the beginning of August that was split, Cabrera was 4/16 with two home runs.
Meanwhile, the Yankees are still trying to figure out this whole concept of hitting. Shut down by the Orioles pitching staff in five games, the Yankees managed to squeak out enough runs to win the series. Alex Rodriguez was benched for Game Five, Curtis Granderson was striking out at an Adam Dunn-like rate, and Nick Swisher’s career playoff batting average is still under the Mendoza line (.162, in 43 games). While the quality of pitching isn’t as good as what the Orioles had (especially in the bullpen), and the Yankees have done better than most against Verlander, the Tigers have gotten very solid pitching thus far.
This will be a competitive series in what seems to be a blossoming rivalry. This will be the third time since 2006 that both teams have met in the playoffs, with the Tigers winning each Division Series meeting. I don’t see a sweep, but I don’t see it going the distance. That puts a lot of pressure on the middle of the rotation to pitch well, since the aces will be used only once unless it goes the distance. Both of my key players are tonight’s starters, Andy Pettitte, and Doug Fister. Pettitte has made a living off of big games, and has pitched at least 6 innings in 14 out of his last 15 playoff starts. Doug Fister got a taste of big games last year, and pitched a great game to close out the Yankees in last year’s ALDS elimination game. The Yankee bats have to find a way to drive in runs when they get opportunities. If they hit like they did in the ALDS, it won’t end well for New York. The Tigers’ hitters are much more experienced and composed than Baltimore was. I don’t trust the Yankees offense enough to pick them. I’ll go with Detroit in 6.
Check back in tomorrow for the NLCS Preview, and follow me on Twitter @JustinCirillo