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Yankees vs. Tigers: 5 Biggest Matchups in Game 3 of ALCS

Brandon CroceAnalyst IDecember 16, 2014

Yankees vs. Tigers: 5 Biggest Matchups in Game 3 of ALCS

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    The ALCS has been a house of horrors for the New York Yankees, and they could not have been dealt a tougher hand to come back from to try to win this series. They are down two games to none to the Detroit Tigers and must win three straight road games in Detroit to get it back to New York.

    To make matters worse, they will have to win these games without their captain and starting shortstop Derek Jeter, who broke his ankle in Game 1 of the series. If that isn't bad enough, they have to face one of the best pitchers in the game today in Justin Verlander.

    Even with all the potential obstacles the Yankees have, they are still the New York Yankees and are a talented, veteran team who will most likely bring their best stuff in Game 3 tonight. These are the five matchups to watch in tonight's game.

Justin Verlander vs. New York Yankees

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    This could be hard to believe, but the Yankees may actually be happy to see Justin Verlander to help them get back to their winning ways. They won two of three games against Verlander this year, scoring 12 runs and hitting .294 against him.

    The Tigers' starting pitchers have strung together an impressive streak of starts, dating back to their previous series against the A's, and it will be Verlander's job to keep that momentum rolling.

    Now, Verlander has struggled a bit against the Yankees but has been lights out in the postseason. In his last start against the A's he threw a complete-game shutout, striking out 11 along the way.

Yankees Hitters vs. Strikeouts

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    Alex Rodriguez has been getting a lot of the blame for the Yankees' struggles at the plate, but aside from Raul Ibanez, no Yankee has been able to hit. The problem is that the Yankees aren't even able to make contact with the ball, as they have struck out a total of 20 times over the first two games.

    The Yankees' top bats—Robinson Cano, Curtis Granderson, Mark Teixeira, Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher—have combined to go 5-for-40 over the first two games for a .125 average. If the Yankees want to have any chance of winning tonight, these five will need to start putting the ball in play and stop striking out.

Phil Hughes vs. Miguel Cabrera

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    With the Yankees down two games and facing a must win, there would have been very little doubt in my mind that CC Sabathia would get the start here.

    Instead, Phil Hughes will be called upon to end the Yankees slide. He has pitched pretty well against the Tigers this year; in two games he is 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA and has held the Tigers to a .235 batting average.

    If Hughes wants to be successful, though, there there is one player he needs to shut down, and that is Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera. 

    This will not be an easy task, as Cabrera has hit very well against Hughes. In 22 at-bats against the righty, he has nine hits, four home runs and nine RBI. Hughes will need to limit the damage Cabrera does for the Yankees to have a chance to win.

Jose Valverde vs. Phil Coke

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    At the end of Game 1 the Tigers brought in Jose Valverde, who has been their primary closer this season, and it wasn't pretty, as the Yankees' bats came alive for a brief moment. He ended up giving up four runs in only two-thirds of an inning.

    It hasn't been an easy postseason for the emotional closer, who has given up seven runs in three appearances in the playoffs.

    Even with his struggles it is hard to bench a guy who over the past two seasons has converted 84 of 89 save opportunities, but that is exactly what manager Jim Leyland did. He decided to go with Phil Coke to close out the final two innings of Game 2.

    It will be interesting to see what route Leyland will take if the Tigers are faced with another save situation at the end of Game 3.

Tigers Bullpen vs. Yankees Bullpen

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    This matchup could determine who wins this game, with the Tigers getting the slight edge right now. Over the first two games each bullpen has given up four runs; however, Valverde has given up all those runs for the Tigers bullpen.

    The Yankees bullpen has to be a little bit more of a concern, which hasn't been the case for some time because of Mariano Rivera locking down the ninth inning. The Yankees don't have that luxury now and must now rely on Rafael Soriano and company. This game will most likely be close and will come down to which bullpen pitches better.

Players to Watch

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    Robinson Cano

    The second baseman has not had a very good ALCS and will need to rebound to help the Bronx Bombers get back in this series. This postseason Cano is hitting only .063 after hitting .313 during the regular season.

    What is more concerning is his fielding, which has been well below what fans have come to expect from him.

    With Jeter down, the Yankees will look to Cano more now than ever before.

     

    Jhonny Peralta

    Peralta has been playing some of the best baseball of his career. This postseason he is hitting .385 and has been playing close to perfect in the field this series. Peralta could be in line for his best game yet, as he is hitting .500 against Phil Hughes.

    If Peralta continues to play the way he is, the Tigers become just that much harder to beat.

Game Prediction

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    Everything seems to be favoring the Tigers in this matchup as they head home and have their ace on the mound. However, I don't see the Yankees losing three straight games, and they will find a way to win.

    This will be a close game, like the first two games of this series, but I see the Yankees getting their first lead of this series late and holding on for the win.

    Yankees beat Tigers 2-1

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