Tigers vs. Yankees, 2012 ALCS: Preview, analysis, matchups, keys and more

Kelley L Cox-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Breaking down the Yankees and Tigers ahead of Game 1 of the 2012 American League Championship Series.

The New York Yankees have virtually no time to celebrate their American League Division series victory over the Baltimore Orioles. After clinching that series Friday night, the Yankees are right back to work Saturday (8 p.m. ET/TBS) when they host the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.

Let's break down both teams and look at some of the keys to the series.

How They Got Here

Detroit Tigers

Regular-season record: 88-74, AL Central champs
ALDS: Defeated the Oakland Athletics in five games

New York Yankees

Regular-season record: 95-67, AL East champs
ALDS: Defeated the Baltimore Orioles in five games

Position-By-Position

Catcher

Detroit: Alex Avila -- Season: .243, 9 HR, 48 RBI; ALDS: .250, 1 HR, 1 RBI
Yankees: Russell Martin -- Season: .211, 23 HR, 53 RBI; ALDS: .176, 1 HR, 1 RBI
Advantage: Even

First Base

Detroit: Prince Fielder -- Season: .313, 30 HR, 108 RBI; ALDS: .190, 1 HR, 2 RBI
Yankees: Mark Teixeira -- Season: .251, 24 HR, 84 RBI; ALDS: .353, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Advantage: Tigers. Teixeira still isn't completely healthy, and still isn't driving the ball consistently.

Second Base

Detroit: Omar Infante -- Season: .274, 12 HR, 53 RBI; ALDS: .353, 0 HR, 0 RBI
Yankees: Robinson Cano -- Season: .313, 33 HR, 94 RBI; ALDS: .091, 0 HR, 4 RBI
Advantage: Yankees. New York needs the regular-season version of Cano, not the ALDS version, if it is going to reach the World Series.

Shortstop

Detroit: Jhonny Peralta -- Season: .239, 13 HR, 63 RBI; ALDS: .294, 0 HR, 0 RBI
Yankees: Derek Jeter -- Season: .316, 15 HR, 58 RBI; ALDS: .364, 0 HR, 2 RBI
Advantage: Yankees. Jeter is hurting with a bone bruise on his ankle, but he is still Jeter at the plate.

Third Base

Detroit: Miguel Cabrera -- Season: .330, 44 HR, 139 RBI; ALDS: .250, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Yankees: Alex Rodriguez -- Season: .272, 18 HR, 57 RBI; ALDS: .125, 0 HR, 0 RBI
Advantage: Tigers. Cabrera won the Triple Crown. Rodriguez won a seat on the bench for Game 5 of the ALDS.

Left Field

Detroit: Quintin Berry -- Season: .258, 2 HR, 29 RBI; ALDS: .300, 0 HR, 0 RBI
Yankees: Ichiro Suzuki -- Season: .283, 9 HR, 55 RBI; ALDS: .217, 0 HR, 3 RBI
Advantage: Yankees.

Center Field

Detroit: Austin Jackson -- Season: .300, 16 HR, 66 RBI; ALDS: .250, 0 HR, 3 RBI
Yankees: Curtis Granderson -- Season: .232, 43 HR, 106 RBI; ALDS: .158, 1 HR, 1 RBI
Advantage: Even. Granderson hits for more power, but that is his only advantage.

Right Field

Detroit: Andy Dirks -- Season: .322, 8 HR, 35 RBI; ALDS: .294, 0 HR, 0 RBI
Yankees: Nick Swisher -- Season: .272, 24 HR, 93 RBI; ALDS: .111, 0 HR, 1 RBI
Advantage: Yankees. At least on paper. If Swisher continues to be an automatic playoff out, how much longer can the Yankees play him and sit Brett Gardner?

Designated Hitter

Detroit: Delmon Young -- Season: .267, 18 HR, 74 RBI; ALDS: .235, 0 HR, 2 RBI
Yankees: Raul Ibanez -- Season: .240, 19 HR, 62 RBI; ALDS: .444, 2 HR, 3 RBI
Advantage: Even. Ibanez should not be the guy carrying the Yankees' offense, which he was during the ALDS.

Starting Pitching

Detroit: Doug Fister (Season: 10-10, 3.45 ERA, ALDS: 0-0, 2.57 ERA); Max Scherzer (Season: 16-7, 3.74 ERA , ALDS: 0-0, 0.00 ERA); Justin Verlander (Season: 17-8, 2.64 ERA, ALDS: 2-0, 0.56 ERA); Anibal Sanchez (Season: 9-13, 3.86 ERA, ALDS: 0-1, 2.84 ERA)

Yankees: Andy Pettitte (Season: 5-4, 2.87 ERA, ALDS: 0-1, 3.86 ERA); Hiroki Kuroda (Season: 16-11, 3.32 ERA, ALDS: 0-0, 2.16 ERA); CC Sabathia (Season: 15-6, 3.38 ERA, ALDS: 2-0, 1.53 ERA); Phil Hughes (Season: 16-13, 4.23 ERA, ALDS: 0-0, 1.35 ERA)

Advantage: Even. it will be very interesting to see how Yankees' manager Joe Girardi aligns his pitching staff. Will he set up Sabathia to pitch twice against Verlander, or avoid that matchup until a potential Game 7?

Bullpen

Detroit: Jose Valverde (regular season -- 3-4, 3.78 ERA, 35 saves in 40 opportunities), Joaquin Benoit, Al Albuquerque, Phil Coke, Octavio Dotel

Yankees: Rafael Soriano (regular season -- 2-1, 2.26 ERA, 42 saves in 46 opportunites), David Robertson, Boone Logan, Joba Chamberlain, Clay Rapada, Derek Lowe, David Phelps

Advantage: Yankees. Soriano isn't Mariano Rivera, but he is certainly better than Valverde

Three Keys For The Yankees

1. Score More Runs. The Yankees simply have to score more runs than they did in the ALDS against Baltimore. Against a team with Cabrera and Fielder two or three runs is not going to be enough in most of those games -- unless we are talking about Sabathia vs. Verlander matchups. Going along with that, the Yankees have got to either get something from Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher or get them out of the way. It would be nice if Robbie Cano would play like a star, too.

2. Don't Get Macho With Cabrera and Fielder. Whenever possible the Yankees need to make players other than Cabrera and Fielder win games. Challenging them in key spots is a recipe for disaster.

3. Win Game 1. The Yankees have the home-field advantage and they don't want to give it back right away. They face a hot pitcher in Detroit's Doug Fister, and have the weird situation of not having a day off after clinching the ALDS, but they need to be energetic Saturday night. This no time for a let down.

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