CC Sabathia will try to prevent a celebration, but the Yankees’ bats may be more important to keeping the champagne corked.
Max Scherzer looks to help the Tigers complete the first postseason sweep of the Yankees in 32 years Wednesday night at Comerica Park.
Detroit eliminated the Yankees in five games of last year’s division series, but the postseason run fell short of the World Series.
The Tigers have a chance to keep that from happening this year after putting themselves on the brink of a sweep in this ALCS by winning 2-1 in Game 3. Justin Verlander limited the Yankees to three hits in 8 1-3 innings, making his only mistake on Eduardo Nunez’s homer in the ninth.
“We put ourselves in a decent position, but that’s all we have done,” manager Jim Leyland said.
It’s been 36 postseason series since New York has been swept, dating to the 1980 ALCS against Kansas City.
The offense isn’t providing much hope of avoiding a similar fate this time. The Yankees are hitting .200 in the playoffs and .158 in the ALCS, on track to be a record low for New York in a postseason series, eclipsing a .171 average against the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 1963 World Series.
“There were some good at-bats (Tuesday). The ball was not carrying tremendously well, we know that,” manager Joe Girardi said. “But I think (Verlander) ended up with three strikeouts. So our guys put the ball in play and tried to get on base, but, you know, when you face Verlander, you know what you’re up against.
“The thing that you do is you keep encouraging the guys and you keep telling them, ‘Hey, find a way, find a way to get it done.’”
New York’s offensive shortcomings likely means Sabathia (2-0, 1.53 ERA) needs to toss another gem to keep the Yankees’ season alive.
The left-hander is one out shy of tossing complete games in both of his postseason starts.
“I always want to go out and try to shut the other team down and give us as many opportunities to score,” Sabathia said. “As cold as we are, we can get just as hot, especially with our lineup and the veterans we have and great players we have.”
Success in the playoffs certainly isn’t new for Sabathia. He’s 7-1 with a 3.09 ERA in 13 games - 12 starts - since moving to New York in 2009. However, he wasn’t very effective in three meetings - two starts - against the Tigers in last year’s division series, surrendering six runs and eight walks in 8 2-3 innings.
The 2009 ALCS MVP was much better against them this year, winning all three starts behind a 3.32 ERA. However, he was helped by an offense that averaged 8.7 runs.
One of those victories came opposite Scherzer in a 6-2 win in the Bronx. Sabathia allowed two runs with eight strikeouts in eight innings, while Scherzer had a career-high seven walks and allowed three runs in 4 2-3.
The Tigers’ right-hander was 4-0 with a 2.39 ERA in his previous five games - four starts - against New York, including two in the 2011 division series.
Despite the Yankees’ offensive struggles, Scherzer isn’t taking the AL East champions lightly.
“You know, anytime you catch a team that’s hot or a team that’s struggling, to me, it doesn’t really matter,” Scherzer said. “They’re going to come at you with a game plan to try to knock you out of the game. That’s simply as it is. And they are going to come ready to attack me, so I have to be ready to attack them.”
Scherzer’s only appearance in this postseason was wasted in last Wednesday’s 4-3 loss at Oakland in Game 4 of the division series. He allowed one unearned run with eight strikeouts in 5 1-3 innings before closer Jose Valverde surrendered three runs in the ninth.
Delmon Young is looking to continue his postseason success after hitting a solo homer Tuesday. He’s 4 for 13 with two home runs and five RBIs in this series.
Young’s seven career playoff homers is a Tigers record, and he’s hit five of them - one off Sabathia - in eight games against New York while batting .313 with eight RBIs.
“He had a great postseason last year and he picked up right where he left off,” Leyland said.
Miguel Cabrera’s success isn’t quite as surprising. The Triple Crown winner is 4 for 11 in this series and is batting .361 with six homers and 15 RBIs during his record 16-game hitting streak in LCS play.
It will be interesting to see if Girardi benches struggling third baseman Alex Rodriguez for the second straight game.
Rodriguez was left on the bench Tuesday after going 5 for 41 in 11 playoff games over the last two postseasons, including 3 for 23 with 12 strikeouts in six contests this year.
Rodriguez is 1 for 12 in his career versus Scherzer.
Only the 2004 Boston Red Sox - against the Yankees - have overcome a 3-0 deficit in a postseason series.