YANKS ARE BETTERBy Andrew Marchand
There is no way around it. It looks bleak.
Justin Verlander plus A.J. Burnett equals a long winter, right?
Except the Yankees have CC Sabathia, and a better team. The Tigers have a closer who added some weight to his shoulders after a shaky ALDS debut.
But before we get to the end, let's start at the beginning.
Verlander is the AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner, in my opinion. But Sabathia is probably in the top five or so in the Cy Young race this year.
In this spot, though, who would you rather have? Verlander, you say? Even if you do, by how much?
Sabathia has done it before, and there is no reason to believe he can't do it again. He is great at adapting to circumstances, and this is an odd one. These guys started against each other Friday. Who didn't look that good in 20-something pitches? Verlander.
Now, I fully expect him to pitch better in Game 3, but Sabathia can hang with him.
If Joe Girardi can get away from his Luis Ayala fetish and use the rested Ro-So-Mo, the Yankees can finally install their playoff formula. That is where the Yankees can overcome the conventional logic that hands the ALCS keys to the Tigers. Detroit has a good bullpen, but the Yankees' bullpen can take over a game and a series.
So there is no reason to believe that the Yankees winning Game 3 would be some sort of upset.
Game 4? Well, that is another story. The Yankees won't let Burnett fully destroy their season. They could give him a quick hook and start a relay of relievers. This may be a bad scene.
But Rick Porcello is no guarantee either. There is a reason he is the Tigers' No. 4 starter. His ERA was nearly 5. The Yankees could win a slugfest.
Predicting what will happen in baseball games is a rather silly thing. The beauty of the game is: We don't know.
But know this: The Yankees are a better team, and that is why I think they will prevail. Originally, I thought in four. Now it might go five.
If they do, Jose Valverde's words will be etched in Yankees lore.
RECIPE FOR DISASTERBy Ian Begley
So Jose Valverde went all Joe Namath on Sunday night, guaranteeing the Tigers will win the ALDS.
He probably shouldn't have said it -- but the truth is, Valverde's right.
If you don't believe him, just look at what lies ahead for the Yankees:
They have to face Tigers ace and presumptive AL Cy Young Award winner Justin Verlander on Monday night. Then they give the ball to enigmatic righty A.J. Burnett in Game 4.
If any Yankees fan is comfortable with that scenario, they haven't been paying attention this season.
Burnett had another frustrating year in 2011, finishing at 11-11 with a 5.15 ERA. He made the postseason roster as a reliever, expected to have zero impact on the ALDS.
But because of the rain Friday, the Yankees are forced to give him the ball in Game 4.
For most of the regular season, Burnett looked far from being a pitcher capable of taking the mound in October. He won just two of 14 starts between July 4 and Sept. 13. That stretch included seven straight starts without a win.
Joe Girardi, Mr. Optimistic himself, didn't exactly offer a ringing endorsement of his decision to go with Burnett in Game 4. This is the best he could come up with: "A.J.'s month of September was not bad. It was a complete turnaround from August," he said.
Last October, Girardi did all he could to avoid using Burnett. The Yanks' $82.5 million man didn't get a start in the 2010 ALDS. When he took the ball in Game 4 of the ALCS (Girardi had no other options), Burnett allowed five runs in six innings, severely crippling the Yankees' chances to advance.
And this is the guy you want starting with your season on the line?
Even Burnett himself didn't sound too fired up about taking the ball in Game 4. "I'm just going to go at it as a start. It's my chance to get on the mound to be a part of something and to do what I can as long as I can, until Joe takes me out," he said Sunday.
Just another start? If that's Burnett's mentality, the Yankees are in deep trouble.