2011 ALDS Game 3 Preview: A Must-Win for the Yankees

Rob ManiseroCorrespondent IOctober 3, 2011

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 21:  Pitcher CC Sabathia #52 of the New York Yankees looks on from the dugout in the eighth inning against the Tampa Bay Rays on September 21, 2011 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Game 3 of the 2011 ALDS comes our way tonight, and it means a whole lot more to the New York Yankees than it does to the Detroit Tigers.

Thanks to the rain and scheduling of the rotation by Girardi, tonight will be the only game that involves C.C. Sabathia. The Yanks need to capitalize on this opportunity and beat Justin Verlander, or else the season is most likely over.

If the Yankees fall to the Tigers tonight, then the fate of the season lies in the 5.15 ERA of A.J. Burnett, who was thrown into action because of the rain. On top of this, the decision to leave Bartolo Colon off the playoff roster is proving to be costly. Although Colon wasn't as dominant down the stretch, I feel much more confident in his ability to at least keep the Yankees in the game.

Even so, if the Yankees are able to rebound tomorrow after a loss tonight, Ivan Nova will be the guy to get the ball on Thursday. Nova was great on Saturday, but his command can be spotty, and with the pressure at an all-time high, it'll probably be worse.

Both Games 4 and 5 are not ideal for the Yankees, which is why it is imperative that they take this game tonight, with their ace on the mound. Against Verlander on Friday, the Yanks did a great job in the first inning of staying within the strike zone and not chasing any close pitches. This is the best way to attack Verlander, especially early in the game, when the nerves of a playoff game are higher.

On top of that, Verlander may be more susceptible to the awkward amount of rest in between starts. Sure, he only threw 25 pitches on Friday, but they were playoff pitches, not bullpen tosses. When was the last time Verlander pitched on short rest? It's a good question, and one that might not be able to be answered.

While C.C. needs to deliver tonight, so does the Yankees offense. I'm talking about A-Rod and Teixeira in particular, who are getting paid way too much money to be hitting the way they are right now. Teixeira looks lost at the plate, while A-Rod can't catch up to anything over 90. Cano is doing a hell of a job, but he cannot be expected to put the team on his back. If A-Rod and Teixeira don't get things started, Cano will be walked every time up.

The Tigers can afford to lose this game more than the Yankees can because of a much more definitive Game 4 starter. The pressure is on C.C. to get it done on the mound, and the big salary guys to prove their worth at the plate.