Justin Verlander is no sure thing against the New York Yankees on Tuesday night.
The Detroit Tigers did what they were hoping to do and more in their first two games of the ALCS, winning not just one game at Yankee Stadium to give them home-field advantage, but taking two from the New Yorkers.
But before you think that this 2-0 edge is insurmountable, Justin Verlander has to beat the Yankees in Game 3 at Comerica Park and believe it or not, that's no sure thing in spite of the Yankees' recent hitting woes. He has one full playoff start against the Yankees to his name, giving up four runs and striking out 11 over eight innings in the Tigers' 5-4 win in Game 3 of the 2011 ALDS.
Over the 2011 and 12 regular seasons, Verlander compiled an overall 41-13 record, a 2.52 ERA and held batters to a .205 batting average making him baseball's most dominant pitcher.
However, Verlander hasn't had anywhere near that success against the Yankees over the last two years. The Tigers ace faced the Yankees twice in 2011 and three times in 2012 and has nothing more than a 1-1 record with three no-decisions.
Here are those five games:
March 31, 2011, Opening Day at Yankee Stadium: Verlander went six innings and allowed three runs on three hits, walking four and whiffing eight. The key blow was a three-run homer by Mark Teixeira. Verlander (114 pitches) earned a no-decision, but the Tigers lost, 6-3.
May 2, 2011, in Detroit: Verlander again went six innings allowing three runs, this time on eight hits. Once again he walked four and whiffed eight. These were the only two games in 2011 that Verlander proffered as many as four walks. The key blow was a two-run double by the now-retired Jorge Posada. Verlander (137 pitches) earned a no-decision, but the Tigers lost, 5-3. Like in the opener, Joba Chamberlain earned the win in relief.
April 27, 2012, in New York: Once again, Verlander lasted just six innings (102 pitches) but the Yankees this time got to him for four earned runs, five overall, on seven hits. He didn't walk anyone but only struck out four. The key blows were homers by Russell Martin and Alex Rodriguez. It was another no-decision for Verlander, but another loss for the Tigers, this time, 7-6.
June 3, 2012, in Detroit: Verlander went 6.1 innings and struggled, allowing nine hits and five runs, three earned. He walked four and whiffed four throwing 114 pitches. He took the loss as the Tigers dropped a 5-1 decision to complete-game winner, Phil Hughes. The key blows were a Robinson Cano triple, and home runs from Derek Jeter and A-Rod.
August 6, 2012, in Detroit: Verlander was overpowering in an eight-inning performance striking out 14 Yankees. He did allow nine hits but walked only one while allowing two runs, both unearned. Curtis Granderson, Teixeira, and Ichiro Suzuki each struck out three times. Verlander and the Tigers won, 7-2.
Bottom line numbers
• Verlander went 1-1-3 while the Tigers were 1-4 during those five regular-season starts.
• Verlander's ERA was 3.64 and his WHIP was 1.526.
• Verlander pitched 32.1 innings allowing 13 earned runs on 36 hits, including five homers.
• He walked 13 and struck out 38.
• He threw 589 pitches, 54.3 percent were fastballs. His fastball averaged 89.6 mph peaking at 100.3.
• Overall, the Yankees swung and missed on 65 pitches.
• Yankee batters hit .279, slugged .481, and had an OPS of .823.
• Alex Rodriguez has hit .455 against Verlander the last two seasons with two homers, a double, and three RBIs including 4 for 6 this season.
• Verlander owns a 5-4 record and 3.74 ERA in 13 career starts against the Yankees.
Keep in mind, if the Yankees can once again get to Verlander, waiting in Game 4 is CC Sabathia who is 3-1-1 against Detroit over the last two seasons and perhaps a whole new ALCS.