When I previewed Game 1 of the American League Championship Series on Saturday between the Tigers and Yankees, I wrote that I liked the Tigers in the series but wanted to hold off a bit just in case a big injury occurred. Boy did it, and now the Yankees look like they are toast.
Of course, I am talking about the broken ankle that Derek Jeter suffered in the Yanks’ Game 1 defeat. It turned out that it was a terrible thing New York was able to rally for four runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to send the game into extra innings. If that doesn’t happen – or if Nick Swisher had a clue in right field – then Jeter’s still playing. I’ll admit, I thought Jeter was way past his prime, but he had a great season.
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And the Yankees can’t exactly afford to be without Jeter’s bat. He was hitting .333 this postseason. The only other guy who is contributing regularly is Raul Ibanez. Russell Martin is hitting .192; Swisher is batting .154 and might be the worst postseason hitter ever with runners in scoring position; Robinson Cano is batting .063 and has gone 26 straight at-bats without a hit, which is the longest hitless streak in a single postseason in major-league history; Alex Rodriguez looks like he’s 57, not 37, as A-Rod is batting .130 in these playoffs with 12 strikeouts; Curtis Granderson is 3-for-26 with 14 strikeouts overall and 0-for-7 with five strikeouts against the Tigers.
Did I mention that to somehow come back from a 2-0 hole and win this series that the Yanks would likely have to beat Tigers ace Justin Verlander twice (starting Tuesday)? New York was the World Series favorite when this postseason began and now it’s the 10/1 long shot at Bovada. Detroit is the favorite at 11/10. For the series, the Tigers are now -600.
It’s still not clear if A-Rod will start Game 3, although the New York media says he probably will; Rodriguez is 4-for-6 with two home runs against Verlander this season. There are also reports that the Yanks could start Brett Gardiner in the outfield Tuesday night. Yankees manager Joe Girardi had said he was hesitant to play Gardner because he has only had three major-league at-bats since April due to injury. But he’s 5-for-11 in his career against Verlander. The logical candidate to bench would be Swisher, who is a .180 hitter vs. Verlander.
Yankees at Tigers Game 3 Probable Starting Pitchers
Yankees RHP Phil Hughes (16-13, 4.23 in regular season) vs. Tigers RHP Justin Verlander (17-8, 2.64): Instead of going with CC Sabathia on short rest, the Yanks turn to the unpredictable Hughes. He was good in his lone ALDS start, allowing one run and striking out eight in 6.2 innings vs. Baltimore. Hughes started twice vs. Detroit this year and both were at Comerica Park. He was 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA. Miguel Cabrera terrorizes Hughes as the Triple Crown winner is batting .450 with four homers and nine RBI in 20 at-bats against him.
Verlander, meanwhile, was borderline obscene in the ALDS, beating Oakland twice and allowing just one run while striking out 22 over 16 innings. His 11 strikeouts in Game 5 vs. the A’s were the most strikeouts in a shutout in a winner-take-all game in postseason history. Verlander and Cliff Lee are the only pitchers with consecutive starts with 11 or more strikeouts in a single postseason. Verlander was fairly mortal vs. New York this season, going 1-1 with a 3.10 ERA in three starts.
Ichiro has had some success vs. Verlander in his career, hitting .309 (Jeter was hitting .361 against him). Mark Teixeira is batting .097 in his career vs. the righty, Granderson is at .188, Ibanez at .103, Cano at .226. The big question is what Girardi will do with Chavez. He is 9-for-25 in his career vs. Verlander and 6-for-10 this season. Does Chavez play third and A-Rod sit? Does Chavez play DH ahead of Ibanez? Or does Chavez sit considering he’s 0-for-11 this postseason?
Yankees at Tigers Game 3 Betting Odds and Trends
Detroit is at -195 on Bovada with New York at +165 and the total at 7. Tigers are 2-4-1 over/under this postseason; Yanks are 2-5.
The Yankees are 6-0 in their last six games after scoring two runs or less in their previous game. New York is 0-7 in its past seven playoff games as an underdog. The Yankees are 3-13 in Hughes' last 16 road starts vs. a team with a winning record. The Tigers are 7-1 in their last eight games after allowing two runs or less in their previous game. Detroit is 9-2 in its last 11 games vs. a right-handed starter. The Tigers are 22-4 in Verlander’s last 26 starts as a home favorite of -151 to -200. The “over” is 6-1 in the Yankees’ last seven road games vs. a team with a winning record. The over is 7-2-1 in Hughes' last 10 starts as an underdog. The “under” is 11-5 in Verlander’s last 16 home starts. The over is 6-1-1 in Verlander’s past eight starts vs. the Yankees. Detroit is 2-6 in Verlander’s last eight starts vs. Yankees.
Yankees at Tigers Game 3 Betting Prediction
I really am trying to think of a reason to take the Yanks at that price. But how can I? They have played 21 innings in this series and have scored in one of them. And, really, the Yanks’ only chance is likely if they get into Detroit’s bullpen, more specifically Jose Valverde. That is if Valverde even closes the game out at this point after getting bombed in Game 1. Left-hander Phil Coke finished out Game 2, but Tigers manager Jim Leyland claims Valverde is still the team’s closer. The last Tigers pitcher other than Valverde to allow an earned run this postseason was Anibal Sanchez -- in Game 3 of the ALDS. I think the Tigers sweep – and take the under in Game 3.
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