The Detroit Tigers no doubt enjoyed having Friday off after they eliminated Oakland in Game 5 of the ALDS on Thursday night. The Tigers flew back to Detroit after that game (landing around 8 a.m. local time) and watched the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees battle into Friday night for a spot opposite in the Tigers in the American League Championship Series, with Game 1 on Saturday night in the Bronx. Detroit got back on a plane around 11:30 p.m. Friday to fly to New York after the Yanks finished off the Birds 3-1 in Game 5 of that series.
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It’s the second straight ALCS for Detroit, which was beaten by Texas in six games last season. The Tigers haven’t been to the World Series since 2006 and haven’t won it since 1984, the year that epic team started 35-5 (best 40-game start in MLB history). The Yankees can get a little revenge here as they lost in five games to Detroit in last year’s ALDS despite having home-field advantage as they do here. New York looks for its first World Series berth since 2009, when it beat the Phillies in six games.
The Yankees won six of 10 games vs. Detroit this season – only three of those were in the Bronx and New York won two out of three in late April. The clubs have played just one series since the start of June, splitting four games at Comerica Park from Aug. 6-9 (three went “over” the total). Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera, the Triple Crown winner, hit well vs. the Yanks this year, batting.308 with five homers and 11 RBI. Prince Fielder hit .333 with three homers and seven RBI. Overall, Tigers hitters had a .294 average vs. the Yankees. Tigers pitchers, however, had a 5.30 ERA vs. New York. The Yankees had 15 homers off the Detroit staff and hit a collective .287.
Detroit beat Oakland in five games thanks largely to two stellar performances from Justin Verlander, who was 2-0 with 22 strikeouts and just one earned run in 16 innings. But because the A’s were able to extend that series to a fifth game, Verlander won’t be available for the ALCS opener. He will be set up to go on usual rest in Game 3 and, if necessary, Game 7. The Yankees had the same scenario, having to use ace CC Sabathia in Game 5 on Friday. The problem is, he wouldn’t be on normal rest now until Game 4 and, theoretically, the rest of the series barring a rainout (Game 7 is set for a week from Sunday). That (rainout) was how the Cardinals were able to use ace Chris Carpenter three times in last year’s World Series. However, it looks like the Yanks will use Sabathia on three days’ rest for Game 3 opposite Verlander.
What should scare the Yankees is that the Tigers beat the A’s despite little from Cabrera, who hit .250 and didn’t get his lone RBI of the series until Game 5, and that was when he was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. That four-game drought matched his longest streak without an RBI in the regular season. Fielder, who played in last season’s NLCS with Milwaukee, did have a homer (Coco Crisp robbed him of another) and two RBI but hit just .190. Austin Jackson had three RBIs but hit .250 and struck out seven times. Detroit was one of the majors’ worst defensive teams this season but had just one error vs. the A’s.
ALCS Game 1 Probable Starting Pitchers
Tigers RHP Doug Fister (10-10, 3.45) vs. Yankees LHP Andy Pettitte (5-4, 2.87): Fister pitched Game 2 vs. Oakland and got a no-decision, allowing two runs on six hits and striking out eight in seven innings. The bullpen blew his lead, but Detroit won, 5-4. Fister faced the Yankees once this season, in Detroit on Aug. 9. He got a no-decision, allowing two runs and eight hits in 6.1 innings. Fister eliminated the Yankees from last year’s playoffs in Game 5 of the ALDS. He got the win, allowing just a run in five innings at Yankee Stadium. Derek Jeter has the most career at-bats (13) of any current Yankee vs. Fister and is hitting .385 with two RBI. Mark Teixeira has a homer and four RBI in 12 at-bats. Struggling Alex Rodriguez is 1-for-5 in his career vs. Fister.
Pettitte has 19 career postseason wins, tops in MLB history. The 40-year-old was retired, debuted in May, got hurt in late June and then didn’t return until September. Pettitte hasn’t faced Detroit this season. He was solid in Game 2 of the ALDS vs. the Orioles, allowing three runs in seven innings, but he got the loss. Cabrera is hitting .333 with two homers and four RBI in his career vs. Pettitte. But the guy Pettitte should most fear is Delmon Young: He’s hitting .579 in 19 at-bats vs. the lefty.
ALCS Game 1 Betting Odds and Trends
On 5Dimes, the Yanks are -132 favorites for Game 1 with the total at 8 (over a -120 favorite). New York is at +250 to win the World Series, while Detroit is +265. The Tigers were 31-44-6 “over/under” on the road this regular season; Yankees were 34-46-1 at home.
The Tigers are 4-9 in Fister’s past 13 road starts. Detroit is 8-21 in its past 29 road games vs. a left-handed starter. Yankees are 13-3 in their past 16 games vs. a right-handed starter. Yankees are 7-1 in their last eight home games vs. a right-handed starter. Yankees are 12-2 in their last 14 home games. The under is 6-1-2 in Detroit’s past nine games and the under is 4-0 in the Yankees’ past four games.
ALCS Game 1 Betting Prediction
So will A-Rod start at third for the opener (I’m guessing yes)? He was pinch-hit for in Games 3 and 4 vs. Baltimore and benched for Game 5. The most overpaid athlete in the history of the world is 2-for-16 with nine strikeouts in these playoffs. A career .300 hitter, Rodriguez went 2-for-16 in last year's playoffs and 2-for-18 the year before. He’s just not a playoff performer (2009 aside).
Let me say this first: take the under in every MLB playoff game (crazy Cardinals rallies aside). When you can use your bullpen freely, it lowers the score. I guarantee the Yanks use a situational lefty against Fielder multiple times in this series, for example. In my mind, Detroit has the best hitter and pitcher in this series. I do believe the Tigers take the ALCS (Yanks don’t even know who they will start in Game 2 yet), but I don’t want to show my hand quite yet for future game previews and injuries can always happen. Take the Tigers for Game 1.
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