ALCS preview: Yankees vs. Tigers

Kevin Kaduk
Big League Stew

Whoever came up with the term "no rest for the wicked" would love the 2012 postseason.

Yes, after all four LDS rounds went the distance for the first time ever, we're barreling straight into ALCS Game 1 on Saturday night. The first pitch at Yankee Stadium will begin less than 24 hours after the New York Yankees polished off the Baltimore Orioles in ALDS and less than 48 after the Detroit Tigers dumped the Oakland Athletics on the other side of the county.

If you hear players calling this the "Starbucks Series," you'll know why.

The good news for both hurried squads is that they're very familiar with each other. The Tigers beat the Yankees in five games in last year's ALDS and the two teams also met in the 2006 ALDS with the Tigers winning that one in four contests. Detroit apparently can't appear in the postseason without pulling a series against the pinstripes.

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At any rate, here's a quick look at the ALCS series ahead, the first time these teams will meet in the postseason with a trip to the World Series on the line:

Schedule (all times ET)
Game 1: Saturday, October 13 — at Yankee Stadium, 8 p.m.
Game 2: Sunday, October 14 — at Yankee Stadium, 4 p.m.
Game 3: Tuesday, October 16 — at Comerica Park, 8 p.m.
Game 4: Wednesday, October 17 — at Comerica Park, 8 p.m.
Game 5: Thursday, October 18 — at Comerica Park, 8 p.m.
Game 6: Saturday, October 20 — at Yankee Stadium, 8 p.m.
Game 7: Sunday, October 21 — at Yankee Stadium, 8 p.m.

All the games will be televised on TBS, so get ready for more punishing repetitions of commercials featuring needlessly smug smartphone owners, slumming in fast food "chefs" and annoying singalongs from soon-to-be-canceled sitcoms that were already canceled by another network. The great news, however, is that Dick Stockton's done. This series will be broadcast by Ernie Johnson, John Smoltz and Cal "Don't Call Me Carl" Ripken Jr.

Season series: The Yankees won six of the 10 games the two sides played in 2012.

With both Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia winning their respective Game Fives, the only matchup that is set in stone is Saturday's Game 1 faceoff between Doug Fister and Andy Pettitte. Detroit is scheduled to follow Fister  with Anibal Sanchez in Game 2, Verlander in Game 3 and Max Scherzer in Game 4. Yankees manager Joe Girardi won't announce a Game 2 starter until later on Saturday, but could choose between David Phelps and Hiroki Kuroda. Since he pitched on Friday night, Sabathia would be going on short rest if he wants a Game 3 matchup with Verlander.


Both teams are keeping their ALDS rosters intact, save one for change: The Yankees have swapped out reserve infielder Eduardo Nunez for reliever Cody Eppley.

What the Yankees need to do to win ...

Score more runs: Hello, Captain Obvious! Seriously, though, the entire reason the Yankees struggled to dispatch the Orioles was that they hit a total of .211. If Robinson Cano, Nick Swisher and Curtis Granderson wake up, we'll see the offense that rolled its way to the best record in the American League.

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Win one before CC comes around: Sabathia isn't afraid to pitch on short rest and he has been relatively good at it. But even the advantage of having him in your rotation is lessened when you switch from a five-game to seven-game series against a team that holds one of the few aces in the league (Verlander) who is better than him. The last thing the Yankees want to do is lose the first two games in New York which will force Girardi to slide Sabathia into that Game 3 spot on short rest.

Get into the Tigers bullpen: Detroit has a great young stable of starters, but their bullpen is vulnerable. Work the counts and rip into a softer side of the Tigers. They can give Verlander one complete game effort — or actually, he'll probably just take it from them — but that's it.

What the Tigers need to do to win ...

Win all three home games: The Tigers were tied for the second-best home record in baseball with a mark of 50-31 at Comerica Park. The only team that was better were the Yankees at 51-30 so it'll be important to protect what's theirs. Detroit was 38-43 on the road, though you have to think Prince Fielder is looking at that jet stream in Yankee Stadium's right field and licking his chops.

Hope Max Scherzer is healthy: The righthander  could be the ace card for Detroit this series as he'll likely pitch Game 4 and could buy some momentum with his talent. Scherzer was good during the regular season but he's been hampered by an ankle injury. Seven strong innings from him would be gravy.

Put out a call for heroes: Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera combined for a total of one home run in the ALDS (it belonged to Fielder) and it goes without saying the Tigers will need to be shoved over the hump by those two if they want to advance. But who's going to help with the effort?  The Yankees have such a deep stable of contributors that the Tigers have to summon some magic from unlikely places if they want to topple New York.

Make sure all your bases are covered this postseason ...
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