Blistering Game 5 performances by their aces bring the New York Yankees and Detroit Tigers together for Game 1 of the American League Championship Series Saturday night at Yankee Stadium.
Both teams needed five games to advance after dealing with the scrappy Oakland Athletics and Baltimore Orioles.
CC Sabathia pitched a complete four-hit game Friday night, with nine strikeouts and let up one earned run in New York’s 3-1 victory over the Orioles.
After DH Lew Ford singled in Matt Wieters with one out in the eighth inning, Robert Andino loaded the bases with an infield single, but Sabathia silenced the late Baltimore rally by striking out leftfielder Nate McLouth and forcing JJ Hardy to ground out.
Sabathia saved New York from a rash of cold streaks up and down its lineup, and slumping power hitter Alex Rodriguez benched for the final game.
Outfielder Curtis Granderson only hit .158 in the ALDS, but might’ve broke through his slump Friday, going 2-for-3 with an insurance homerun in the seventh.
Rodriguez is slated to bat sixth in the lineup in Game 1, despite going 2-for-16 with nine strikeouts in the ALDS.
Detroit’s less heralded bats did the work on offense, but it was starter Justin Verlander’s two masterful games that propelled the Tigers to their second straight trip to ALCS.
Verlander pitched his own four-hit complete game to shutout the A’s with 11 strikeouts in the Detroit’s 6-0 Game 5 win.
Tigers second baseman Omar Infante scored two runs and was 2-for-3 in Game 5, and centerfielder Austin Jackson also contributed two runs. Infante leads the Detroit lineup with a .353 average and six runs, while Triple Crown-winning first baseman Miguel Cabrera hit only .250 with one RBI in the ALDS.
Doug Fister gets the start Saturday after an eight-strikeout seven-inning no decision in Game 2 of the ALDS that the Tigers won 5-4. The 28-year-old righty had one start against the Yankees this season, going 6 1/3 innings with two earned runs and four strikeouts for the no decision.
New York will start veteran Andy Petitte, who went seven innings and gave up three earned runs in New York’s 3-2 loss to the Orioles in Game 2. Pettitte did not face the Tigers this season as he was limited to only 12 starts due to an ankle injury that kept him out for most of the year.
Prediction: With neither team starting their aces, this could be a high-scoring, wild first game. Look for New York to pressure Fister if they get on with hard baserunning, and for the Tigers to take Pettitte deep into counts to test the 40-year-old’s endurance. New York’s bats should finally come alive for the win, but Detroit will challenge in the late innings.
Predicted Score: New York 7, Detroit 4