video thumbnail

ALCS Gm1: Pettitte on starting Game 1 of the ALCS

NEW YORK -- Another chapter in the Yankees-Tigers heated rivalry will be written when the American League Championship Series opens on Saturday night (8 ET on TBS) at Yankee Stadium.

The series will be a rematch of last year's best-of-five AL Division Series, which the Tigers narrowly won, 3-2. It was a hotly contested affair and seems fitting that the two teams will meet once again -- this time with a berth in the World Series hanging in the balance.

Both clubs enter the ALCS riding the momentum from victories in do-or-die Game 5's, but the slate will now be wiped clean with everyone starting on even footing.

"Excited, looking forward to it," said Yankees center fielder Curtis Granderson, who played for Detroit from 2004-09. "That's the team that knocked us out last year. A very hungry team, aggressive team, a confident team. Jim Leyland is going to have those boys ready to play."

Both teams enter the series without much rest. The Yankees clinched their ALDS series with a 3-1 victory over the Orioles on Friday night and are faced with a quick turnaround for Game 1 at Yankee Stadium.

The Tigers completed their series against Oakland on Thursday night but had to wait for the conclusion of the Yankees' game the following day to know who and where they would be playing. The lack of an off-day in between the series created a lot of uncertainty for both sides, but now that the matchup is known, the preparation can begin.

New York will send veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte to the mound for Game 1, while the Tigers will counter with right-hander Doug Fister. It's not exactly the CC Sabathia vs. Justin Verlander head-to-head duel most people would associate with a Game 1 -- as both pitchers were used to close out their respective series -- but it still has the makings for an impressive night on the mound. Verlander will start Game 3 for the Tigers, while Yankees manager Joe Girardi has not yet announced whether he'll throw Sabathia on short rest in Game 3 or hold him for Game 4.

Pettitte, who is the all-time winningest pitcher in postseason history with 19 victories, will be tasked with trying to limit a Detroit offense which features two of the game's most feared hitters. It's also a club which finished the regular season ranked third in average (.268), fourth in OPS (.757) and sixth in runs scored (726).

"Obviously you have [Miguel] Cabrera in there and [Prince] Fielder, great hitters," Pettitte said on the eve of the series. "Just hope you can get out there and make quality pitches. Nothing different, you know, just try to make quality pitches.

"You know it is going to be tough games. And for me, [I hope to] have good command of all of my pitches, not walk any guys and give us a chance to win, and hopefully give us a good outing."

On paper, Fister appears in for a tough challenge against a Yankees team which had the second-best offense in the AL during the regular season. He started two games against New York in the 2011 ALDS, going 0-1, with a 6.52 ERA over 9 2/3 innings.

But it's also a lineup that struggled to find any kind of rhythm against the Orioles. With the exception of a five-run ninth inning against Baltimore in Game 1, New York managed to score just 11 runs in five games of the ALDS, and the woes weren't limited to just one player.

Alex Rodriguez (2-for-16), Nick Swisher (2-for-18), Robinson Cano (2-for-22) and Russell Martin (3-for-17) combined to hit .123 in the series and eventually resulted in a series of lineup changes for the final game against Baltimore -- including the benching of Rodriguez.

That being said, the offensive performance of a club can turn on a dime, and the Tigers aren't about to take anything for granted following a season-long battle just to qualify for the postseason despite having one of the most hyped teams heading into the year.

"We got this far. We've had to work hard to do it," Leyland said. "We had to work hard to win the division. We certainly had to work hard to win [the ALDS]. But you know what? I've been saying this since April -- I like our club. Through thick and thin, I've been saying that I like our club. And I still like our club."

This marks just the third time in Major League history the Tigers and Yankees will meet in the postseason. In addition to the 2011 series, the clubs also met during the 2006 ALDS, when Detroit came out victorious, 3-1, before eventually advancing to the World Series where it ended up losing to St. Louis.

This year, the two sides faced off 10 times, with New York holding the advantage, 6-4. The Yankees also outscored Detroit 58-48, but none of that made up for the previous postseason disappointments.

When the ALCS does open on Saturday, it will be the Tigers looking for continued success whereas the Yankees will be looking to make amends. But if revenge is on New York's mind, the players aren't letting it be known publicly.

"I never really thought about it like that," Yankees outfielder Nick Swisher said. "We've been so wrapped up in this series, but our attention now turns to Detroit.

"It's going to be a battle. It's going to be a lot of fun, and we're psyched for it." Comments