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ALDS Game 1 (cont.) and 2 Preview: Tigers vs. Yankees

With the Yankees having home field advantage through the 1st two rounds of the postseason for the first time since 2009, the last time they were World Champs, will they win their 2nd title in 3 years or will the Tigers prevail victorious in their 1st round matchup against the Yanks just like in 2006 when they advanced all the way to the World Series where they eventually fell to former Tiger Jeff Weaver, pesky "X-Factor" and '06 WS MVP David Eckstein, and the St.Louis Cardinals in a rematch of the 1968 WS between the two clubs?

Many were expecting a pitching duel between the two clubs' aces in Game 1 of the ALDS with AL CY Young favorite Justin Verlander going for the Tigers and former AL CY Young award winner CC Sabathia throwing for the Yanks. However, Mother Nature and her rain washed out the hopes of that happening last night as play was suspended in the bottom of the 2nd and will be resumed in place of Game 2 on Saturday night, pushing back the heavyweight bout between JV and CC to Game 3 on Monday night. The remnants of Game 1 will be put in the hands of two unproven playoff performers, Tigers' midseason acquisition Doug Fister and Yanks' Rookie of the Year candidate Ivan Nova. In the process, both JV and CC will now more than likely start only one game in this playoff series.

While both clubs rely heavily on their ace starting pitcher, the Yanks even do more as a result of the fact that their second best and second most reliable rotation arm is a rookie in the 24 year old righthander Nova. While Nova possesses an ERA above 3.50 and a WHIP in the 1.3's, Tigers' #2 starter Doug Fister, the near consensus best deadline acquisition of 2011, posted a 1.79 ERA and a WHIP under 1 in a Detroit uniform down the stretch this season. A very nice complement to Verlander at the top of the Tigers' rotation, Fister actually recorded an ERA lower than JV in the four starts and five total outings he made wearing the Old English D in the month of September, dominating opponents on a regular basis with a perfect 5-0 record and an ERA well below 1.

While Nova has definitely been helped out by the great run support given to him on a start - to - start basis by the Yankees' deep lineup stacked with bashers from top to bottom, the win column of Fister's record was significantly hurt by the tremendous lack of run support he received from the club he played with in the 1st half of the 2011 regular season, the Seattle Mariners. The M's abysmal offense resulted in Fister notching only 3 wins in a M's uniform despite his ERA being in the low 3's for almost the entire 1st part of his 2011 campaign. Fister has performed at such a high rate down the stretch this season that he's literally been a second ace in the Tigs' rotation. JV and him have formed such an elite 1 - 2 punch that I don't believe many Detroit fans are truly concerned that Fister will be taking the ball twice in this series now.

Due to tonight's game being a continuation of last night's suspended action, the Tigers will be hurt by the fact that they can't make any lineup changes against Nova since Leyland designed the batting order in preparation for facing the left-handed Sabathia. This gives Nova a minor advantage going up against Leyland's right-handed heavy lineup, which features Brandon Inge at 3B instead of the switch-hitting Wilson Betemit. While the Tigers will be slightly affected by the fact that no changes can be made to their lineup from last night's washed out Game 1, the Yanks don't have to worry about making changes in any way whatsoever since the Tigers feature all right-handed arms in their starting rotation.  

Familiarity to the opposing team’s starting pitcher can also be a deciding factor that affects the outcome in these types of matchups. Neither club has seen the opposing starter much in the past. This lack of experience with the pitcher on the mound could lead to a team struggling to find its groove in the first couple of frames or at – bats to start the game. Therefore, I don’t expect either the Tigs or Yanks to win in blowout fashion in this one. Although Fister has the better overall regular season statistics, I’ll go with the home team, the Bronx Bombers, in this compelling matchup that should turn out to be more of a pitchers’ duel than a home run derby.          

The more shaky and unpredictable Max Scherzer will take the hill for the Tigers in what is now Game 2 of the ALDS. When on top of his game, Scherzer can dominate with his nasty, strikeout stuff. However, the hard - throwing righthander fails to do it on a consistent basis. However, he has a habit of and is very prone to giving up the long ball. Pitching at Yankee Stadium and having to deal with its short porch in right, the Yankees have to have the clear advantage going up against Scherzer in Game 2, right? Not necessarily because the finesse throwing Freddy Garcia, who's also allowed his fair share of homers, is slated to take the mound for the Yanks in the very same game that Scherzer is for the Tigers. On top of the slow velocity he averages on his entire arsenal of pitches, Garcia mightily struggled in the final month of the season putting up a 7+ ERA in four games started for the Yanks. It seems as if both starters for Game 2 could be in for a long day dealing with the danger and potency up and down of the opposing club's lineup.