The American League Championship Series is all set and it will pit the New York Yankees against the Detroit Tigers for a chance to go to the World Series.
Both teams had to play a Game 5 in their ALDS series, but thanks to aces Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia, the Tigers and Yanks were able to advance.
These two teams are no strangers to each other in October. It was the Tigers who bounced the Yankees in the 2011 ALDS and there's no doubt the Bombers want some revenge in 2012.
Let's take a look at the schedule for the ALCS, as well as the potential lineups and starting rotations for New York and Detroit.
ALCS Schedule (via MLB.com)
Probable Yankees Lineup
1. Derek Jeter: SS
2. Ichiro Suzuki: LF
3. Mark Teixeira: 1B
4. Robinson Cano: 2B
5. Curtis Granderson: CF
6. Alex Rodriguez: 3B
7. Nick Swisher: RF
8. Raul Ibanez: DH
9. Russell Martin: C
New York had a ton of problems scoring runs against the Baltimore Orioles in the ALDS, but were able to overcome their struggles with great pitching. However, the Yankees must find their bats in this series as the Tigers will bring a more potent lineup than the Orioles did.
A-Rod struggled mightily in the ALDS, forcing manager Joe Girardi to bench him for Game 5. Don't expect that to continue, though, as the Yanks will look for their third baseman to snap out of his funk in a different spot in the order.
Raul Ibanez figures to get more time in the Yanks' lineup in this series having racked up three huge RBI against Baltimore. Thanks to Curtis Granderson's homer in the clinching game of the ALDS, the Yanks' center fielder could move up in the order, leap-frogging the struggling Rodriguez and Swisher.
Probable Tigers Lineup
1. Austin Jackson: CF
2. Quintin Berry: LF
3. Miguel Cabrera: 3B
4. Prince Fielder: 1B
5. Delmon Young: DH
6. Andy Dirks: RF
7. Jhonny Peralta: SS
8. Alex Avila: C
9. Omar Infante: 2B
Not only do the Tigers have the Triple Crown winner, Cabrera, they also have Fielder, making up one of the most dangerous 3-4 combinations in all of baseball. Despite that huge threat, both sluggers were relatively quiet in the ALDS.
Infante was Detroit's hottest hitter in the ALDS, but he isn't likely to move up in the order as a result. That's because the Tigers have a solid leadoff hitter in Jackson, and the team's second-best hitter in the ALDS, Berry, has more than earned the right to keep his spot in the No. 2 hole.
Fielder was a dreadful 4-for-21 (.190) in the ALDS, so there's no doubt Detroit needs to get him going if they want to put some runs on the board against the Yanks' pitching staff.
Probable Yankees Rotation
1. Andy Pettitte
2. Hiroki Kuroda
3. Phil Hughes
4. CC Sabathia
Closer: Rafael Soriano
No, you're not imagining things, Sabathia is the No. 4 starter in the Yanks' ALCS rotation. Thanks to a Game 5, the Bombers' ace won't see action until Game 4 of this series. No matter how New York tries to work it, the only way Sabathia sees two starts in the ALCS is if he goes on short rest for one of them.
Pettitte has already been announced as the team's Game 1 starter and there are few pitchers New York would rather have starting this series. Hiroki Kuroda will look to build on his ALDS success as the Game 2 starter.
Soriano failed to record a save against the Orioles, but the Yankees closer didn't allow a single run in 3.1 innings pitched. Sure, he won't put Yankees fans at ease like Mariano Rivera could, but Sori has come as close as you can get to doing so.
Probable Tigers Rotation
1. Doug Fister
2. Anibal Sanchez
3. Justin Verlander
4. Max Scherzer
Closer: Jose Valverde
Like the Yankees, the Tigers had to play a Game 5 in the first round, pushing Verlander back to Game 3 of the ALCS. However, unlike the Yanks, the Tigers will be able to throw Verlander twice in this series on full rest, Game 7 included.
Overall, Detroit got great starting pitching against the Oakland Athletics. None of the Tigers' four starters allowed more than two runs in their respective starts, with Fister having the best showing besides Verlander.
Valverde got roughed up pretty good by Oakland in the ALDS. The Tigers' closer was automatic last season, but the A's proved otherwise after roughing up Valverde for three runs and a blown save in Game 4.
Both teams enjoyed great pitching in the ALDS, but with all the great offense in this series, something has to give.
The Yankees' bats were silent against the Orioles, but that won't last forever. This team's lineup is just too good to stay quiet for much longer, so expect New York to have at least a game or two in which they supply plenty of runs for the pitchers.
Detroit wasn't wholly impressive offensively against Oakland and that doesn't figure to get any better against New York's experienced pitching. The Tigers will have to keep up with a surging Yankees offense and will find it difficult to do so against superior pitching.
It will come down to a Game 6 with Verlander coming back on short rest to help save the Tigers' season. But much like the 2011 ALDS, the Yanks will unexpectedly get to Verlander and this time will put the Tigers away.
Yankees in Six