The Yankees won a very closely contested ALDS series against the Baltimore Orioles, 3-2, where the last four games were decided by a total of four runs. The hero of this past series was Raul Ibanez, since he hit two homers in game three including the game winner in extra innings. Ibanez also went 1-3 while adding another RBI in the 3-1 win.
Ibanez, who was the DH for the series clincher, should stay in that spot for the upcoming match-up with the Detroit Tigers, since he has proven that he can hit in the playoffs. Alex Rodriguez was benched for game five and should only start again if he is able to come through in a clutch situation while pinch hitting in game one. In six games against the Tigers this season hit hit .375 so Girardi should use his binder to see who he matches up best against.
There really is not that much of a drawback between Eric Chavez and Alex Rodriguez. Chavez is a reliable fielder, but is lacking offensively at this point like A-Rod. However in nine games this season against the Tigers pitching staff Chavez hit .516 with two homers. Based on those stats alone he deserves to start at third over A-Rod. Rodriguez should basically be the most expensive playoff pinch-hitter in MLB history until he can prove himself.
The starting pitching for the Yankees was reliable in this series, as no pitcher allowed more than three runs in the five game series, but the offense will need to step up in order to advance to the World Series. The Tigers’ ERA, 3.75, was the third lowest in the American League so the offensive underachievers for the Yankees such as Curtis Granderson (.158 and nine strikeouts), Nick Swisher (.111) and Robinson Cano (.091) will need to revert to their regular season form.
Granderson had 43 homers in the regular season, while Cano and Swisher had 33 and 24, respectively. They will need to display some of that power in this upcoming series as well as hit for a decent average. Detroit’s top four starters, Justin Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez have a more successful track record than those of the Orioles so it is even more important that the Yankees offense picks up the slack.
The Yankees are evenly matched wit the Tigers, if both teams perform to their ability, but an advantage that the Yankees have is that I see Cano and Granderson raising their level of play. Overally, Cano is the best hitter all-around hitter on the team, excluding Jeter’s always reliable postseason production, and Granderson closed the series on a positive note with a homer and will have extra motivation facing his former team.
I see this series going seven games with the Yankees having the advantage because the have two playoff aces in CC Sebathia and Andy Pettitte while the one true playoff ace on the Tigers is Verlander. The Bronx Bombers also have the advantage when it comes to the bullpen because their top two of Rafael Soriano and David Robertson are much more reliable (and less emphatic) than Phil Coke/Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde.
The Yankees will have to shutdown sluggers Miguel Cabrera (44 homers) and Prince Fielder (30 homers), but they both struggled in the first round against the Oakland Athletics, and the Yankees can pitch around them when it makes sense. Above all, the Yankees will need Ichiro to continue to hit like he did in September, in addition to having Jeter, Teixeira and Ibanez repeat their performance against the O’s, while having Swisher, and especially Granderso and Cano produce like they are capable of.