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A capsule look at Tigers-Yankees playoff series

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A look at the best-of-seven American League championship series between the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees:

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Schedule: (All times EDT)

Game 1, Saturday, at New York (8:07 p.m.); Game 2, Sunday, at New York (4:07 p.m.); Game 3, Tuesday, at Detroit (8:07 p.m.); Game 4, Wednesday, at Detroit (8:07 p.m.); x-Game 5, Thursday, at Detroit (4:07 p.m.); x-Game 6, Saturday, at New York (8:07 p.m.); x-Game 7, Sunday, at New York (8:15 p.m.).

x-if necessary.

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Season Series: Yankees won 6-4.

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Projected Lineups:

Tigers: CF Austin Jackson (.300, 16, 66, 10 triples), LF Quintin Berry (.258, 2, 29, 21/21 SBs), 3B Miguel Cabrera (.330, 44, 139 for baseball's first Triple Crown since 1967), 1B Prince Fielder (.313, 30, 108), DH Delmon Young (.267, 18, 74), RF Andy Dirks (.322, 8, 35), SS Jhonny Peralta (.239, 13, 63), C Alex Avila (.243, 9, 48), 2B Omar Infante (.274, 12, 53 with Marlins and Tigers).

Yankees: SS Derek Jeter (.316, 15 HRs, 58 RBIs, 99 runs, MLB-best 216 hits), LF Ichiro Suzuki (.283, 9, 55, 29 SBs with Mariners and Yankees), 1B Mark Teixeira (.251, 24, 84), 2B Robinson Cano (.313, 33, 94, 48 doubles, 105 runs), DH Raul Ibanez (.240, 19, 62), RF Nick Swisher (.272, 24, 93), CF Curtis Granderson (.232, 43, 106, 195 Ks), C Russell Martin (.211, 21, 53), 3B Eric Chavez (.281, 16, 37 in 278 at_bats) or 3B Alex Rodriguez (.272, 18, 57).

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Projected Rotations:

Tigers: RH Doug Fister (10-10, 3.45), RH Anibal Sanchez (9-13, 3.86 with Marlins and Tigers), RH Justin Verlander (17-8, 2.64, ML-leading 239 Ks), RH Max Scherzer (16-7, 3.74, 231 Ks).

Yankees: LHP Andy Pettitte (5-4, 2.87 in 12 starts), RHP Hiroki Kuroda (16-11, 3.32, 219 2-3 IP), RHP Phil Hughes (16-13, 4.23, 191 1-3 IP), LH CC Sabathia (15-6, 3.38 ERA, 200 IP, 197 Ks).

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Relievers:

Tigers: RH Jose Valverde (3-4, 3.78, 35/40 saves), RH Joaquin Benoit (5-3, 3.68, 84 Ks, 71 IP), RH Octavio Dotel (5-3, 3.57), RH Al Alburquerque (0-0, 0.68 in 8 games following elbow surgery), LH Phil Coke (2-3, 4.00), LH Drew Smyly (4-3, 3.99 in 23 games, 18 starts), RH Rick Porcello (10-12, 4.59 in 31 starts), RH Brayan Villarreal (3-5, 2.63, 66 Ks, 54 2-3 IP).

Yankees: RH Rafael Soriano (2-1, 2.26, 42/46 saves), RH David Robertson (2-7, 2.67, 2 saves, 81 Ks in 60 2-3 IP), LH Boone Logan (7-2, 3.74, 1 save, AL-high 80 games), RH Joba Chamberlain (1-0, 4.35 in 22 games), RH David Phelps (4-4, 3.34 in 33 games, 11 starts), RH Derek Lowe (9-11, 5.11, 1 save in 38 games, 21 starts with Indians and Yankees), LH Clay Rapada (3-0, 2.82 in 70 games, 38 1-3 IP), RH Cody Eppley (1-2, 3.33 in 59 games).

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Matchups:

The Tigers beat the Yankees in the division series in 2006 and last year; no team has ever beaten the Yankees in three consecutive postseason series. ... New York acquired Granderson from Detroit in a three-team trade after the 2009 season. The Tigers received Jackson and Coke from New York and Scherzer from Arizona. ... In seven starts against the Yankees in 2011 and 2012 - playoffs included - Verlander is 2-1 with a 3.92 ERA. ... Coke was fairly effective against left-handed batters during the regular season, but righties hit .396 off him. Smyly and Porcello - both part of the rotation at the start of the season - were left on the postseason roster for the division series at Villarreal's expense. ... Sabathia was 3-0 in three starts with 20 strikeouts in 21 2-3 innings against Detroit this season. The Tigers hits .238 against them. ... The Yankees won two of three in New York in April and two of three in Detroit in June before the teams split four games at Comerica in August. ... The two players who should benefit most from Rodriguez's benching, have divergent experiences against Verlander: Chavez is 9 for 25 (.360). Division series star Ibanez has only three hits in 29 at_bats for a .103 average.

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Big Picture:

Tigers: It wasn't as easy as many expected, but Detroit (88-74) wrested the AL Central title from the fading Chicago White Sox and beat Oakland in the division series to reach the ALCS for the second year in a row. The Tigers lost to Texas in six games last season. ... Detroit is in the postseason in consecutive years for the first time since 1934-35. ... Cabrera's charge to the Triple Crown began in earnest on Aug. 1. He hit .344 with 19 homers and 54 RBIs in 57 games for the rest of the regular season. ... Verlander threw a career-high six complete games and is in contention for a second straight Cy Young Award. His four-hit shutout finished the Athletics in a winner-take-all Game 5. ... Scherzer was slowed by a shoulder problem in late September, but he pitched into the sixth inning without allowing an earned run in his only start of the division series. ... The Tigers grounded into a major league-leading 156 double plays. They stole 59 bases, the second-fewest in the majors. ... Detroit manager Jim Leyland is making his seventh postseason appearance. ... The Tigers signed Fielder last winter after slugger Victor Martinez's season-ending knee injury. ... After going all of 2011 without blowing a save, Valverde was a more pedestrian 35 for 40 this season. ... Benoit's 3.68 ERA was his highest since 2008. He allowed 14 homers, his most since he became exclusively a reliever. ... The Tigers had four regulars with an OPS of at least .856 in the regular season - Cabrera, Fielder, Dirks and Jackson. Then it was a substantial drop to Avila at .736. ... Backup catcher Gerald Laird provided a lift by hitting .282 in 63 games. ... Detroit finished sixth in the AL in runs. The Tigers were 10th in homers - with Cabrera and Fielder accounting for more than 45 percent of the team's total of 163. ... Young was arrested in New York in April on a hate-crime harassment charge. He was accused of yelling anti-Jewish epithets at a group of tourists, tussling with them and tackling one to the ground.

Yankees: This was no walk in Monument Park. The Yankees, who went 19-8 down the stretch, finished two games ahead of Baltimore for their 13th division crown in 17 years, earning home-field advantage throughout the AL playoffs. They then needed five games to eliminate the Orioles, hitting just .211 with 47 Ks in their series. Now they'll try to advance to the World Series against one of baseball's best staffs. ... The aging Yankees (95-67) looked old and tired at times throughout a mediocre second half. Rodriguez's hitting woes carried over into the postseason and he was pinch hit for twice and he didn't play in Game 5. ... Injuries took their toll, too. In addition to A-Rod and Mariano Rivera, Sabathia had two stints on the disabled list, Pettitte missed nearly three months with a broken ankle and speedy LF Brett Gardner (elbow) sat out almost the entire season. Teixeira (calf) was sidelined for all but one game between Aug. 28 and Sept. 30, so he and Rodriguez were in the lineup together only once during August and September. Teixeira returned in time for the Boston series and New York now has its thunder back in the middle of a powerful lineup. Cano ended the season on a torrid hitting streak and the Bronx Bombers led the majors with a club-record 245 home runs. They often struggled with runners in scoring position, though, and were criticized for being too reliant on the long ball. New York was 0-58 when trailing after eight innings before a big comeback in the penultimate game of the season. It was a lack of clutch hitting that cost the Yankees in their division series loss to Detroit last year. ... Jeter did an excellent job setting the table all season and Suzuki, also 38, provided strong defense and a much-needed stolen-base threat after he was obtained in late July. Seeking his first trip to the World Series, Suzuki even hit his way up to the No. 2 spot in the lineup against right-handers with a late surge. ... Many of the biggest hits all season came from the 40-year-old Ibanez. ... Sabathia didn't have his best season but was dominant against the Orioles in the first round. The rest of the rotation is a question mark. Back in the playoffs after a one-year retirement, Pettitte is baseball's career leader in postseason wins (19) and starts (43). Can he still be clutch at age 40 after only 12 regular-season outings? Kuroda was strong and dependable during his first year with New York, but he piled up plenty of innings and struggled in September before throwing well in the season finale. ... Even without Rivera, there are late-inning answers and effective specialists in the capable bullpen. Girardi added Eppley to the championship series roster and removed Eduardo Nunez. With Detroit using four righty starters, Nunez would have seen little playing time.

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Watch For:

- Sit Rod. Rodriguez was benched for Game 5 in the division series after being pinch hit for in each of the previous two games. Will he become a distraction the more he sits? And he will. A-Rod was 2 for 16 with nine strikeouts against Baltimore, looking fooled by breaking pitches and hardly able to catch up to fastballs. The Tigers have four right-handers so he may be relegated to a pinch-hitter role.

- Missing Mo. This marks the Yankees' 17th playoff appearance in 18 years - but the first one during that stretch without Rivera in the bullpen. The career saves leader and postseason stalwart tore a knee ligament while shagging flies in early May. Soriano stepped in and did a fantastic job, but now the pressure on him intensifies. All it takes is one blown save in October, especially when you're replacing Mr. Automatic.

Grandy Can, Can He? Granderson homered in his last at-bat of the division series but was 1 for 16 with nine strikeouts before Game 5. Girardi has been batting his slugger eighth but he'll need to produce more like a middle of the order player for the Yankees to win.

- Starting Strong: Detroit's rotation went 2-1 with a 1.30 ERA in the division series, enabling the Tigers to advance despite a relatively quiet showing from Cabrera and Fielder. Detroit's pitchers can strike out a lot of hitters, which is important since the Tigers haven't been good defensively.

- Bullpen Blues?: Valverde and Benoit have been a lot shakier than they were a year ago, and that's a potential concern for the Tigers. Benoit allowed a big home run in Game 2 of the ALDS, and Valverde blew a lead in Detroit's Game 4 loss.

AP NEWS
The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2014
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved

  
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