With history on their side, the Detroit Tigers look to finish off the offensively challenged New York Yankees Wednesday night in Game 4 of the American League Championship series at Comerica Park.
In each of their last two trips to the World Series, Detroit has completed a sweep in the ALCS. In 2006 they shut down the Oakland Athletics and won 4-0, and they took down the Kansas City Royals 3-0 in 1984, subsequently beating the San Diego Padres for their last championship.
Ace hurler Justin Verlander was admittedly not in top form but still dropped the Yankees in a 3-0 hole Tuesday in Game 3, going 8 1/3 innings with one earned run in Detroit’s 2-1 win.
Verlander has won all three of his postseason starts, and given up 10 hits and two earned runs with 25 strikeouts in 24 1/3 innings of work.
New York is familiar with 3-0 deficits, and only one team has ever erased one. The Boston Red Sox stormed back against the Yankees in the 2004 ALCS and went on to win their first World Series title in 86 years.
The Yankees find themselves in such a deep, seemingly insurmountable hole due to a lack of offense. A ninth inning homerun by Eduardo Nunez aside, New York only had one runner in scoring position in Game 3, and are 3-for-19 with runners in scoring position for the series.
Through the first three games, team home run leader Curtis Granderson has yet to record a hit, and second baseman Robinson Cano is hitting .071, worse than controversy lightning rod Alex Rodriguez, who is sitting at .143 in the ALCS.
The Yankees have also not recovered from the season-ending ankle fracture of shortstop Derek Jeter in Game 1. Before he went down, Jeter was leading the team in hitting, and had eight hits, along with a double and a triple in the ALDS.
Recently visiting a specialist in North Carolina, Jeter will be sidelined for at least three months and may require surgery.
CC Sabathia will try to save the wilting Yankees’ season in Game 4, and he’s been just as dominant as Verlander in this postseason. In two starts, Sabathia has struck out 16 batters, and given up three earned runs with wins in both.
Detroit will have several chances to close out the Yankees and advance, with the first coming on the right arm of starter Max Scherzer. The four-year veteran recorded a no decision in Game 4 of the ALDS against the Oakland Athletics, going 5 1/3 innings with no earned runs and eight strikeouts, but the Detroit bullpen surrendered three runs in the bottom of the ninth and lost 4-3.
The Tigers lone weakness in the postseason has been their relief staff, led by regular season closer Jose Valverde, who’s almost pitched his way out of that spot in the playoffs. Valverde has a 27.00 ERA in three appearances, with seven earned runs and two home runs, and opponents hitting .500 against him.
Former Yankee Phil Coke has worked the most relief innings for Detroit with 5 1/3 in six games during the playoffs, and has not given up a run with two saves to his credit.
A win Wednesday would send the Tigers to their 11th Fall Classic. Detroit has won the World Series four times dating back to their first title in 1935 when they beat the Chicago Cubs 4-2.
Prediction: Sabathia can tame the Tigers lineup, but run support has been hard to come by, leaving a tiny margin of error for the Yankee ace. If New York can get to the Tigers bullpen, they have a chance to extend this series one more game and avoid the sweep.
Predicted Score: New York 5, Detroit 2