The Detroit Tigers and Texas Rangers are set to square off in the ALCS after claiming Division Series wins. They finished the regular season with the second and third best record in the American League, with Texas edging Detroit by one game at 96-67 compared to the Tigers 95-68.
They took different routes to getting past their first round opponents, but rain and a long series has both teams in line to throw their aces in Game 1.
The Tigers captured the regular season series 6-3, but who will win the American League pennant and head to the World Series?
Jim Leyland's insistence on not throwing Verlander on short rest in Game 5 of the Division Series worked out heavily in favor of the Tigers. Not only did Doug Fister pitch them past New York, Verlander is ready to take the ball in Game 1 opposite CJ Wilson.
The regular season numbers give Detroit the clear advantage, as Verlander was 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA for the AL Central champs. While Wilson put together an admirable 16-7 year with a 2.95 ERA, it is what Verlander did following starts like his last one that makes game one a truly tough task for Texas.
Six times this season Verlander allowed four earned runs or more in a start, and was lights out the following start each time. In those six starts following "off" games (The Tiger went 5-1 in those outings despite the runs), Verlander allowed just three earned runs total, surrendering zero runs three times and one run three times.
He's given no reason to expect anything but a bounce back from his last game against the Yankees.
Max Scherzer, fresh off a brilliant outing in which he carried a no-hitter through five against the Yankees will square off with Derek Holland in Game 2.
Holland has been solid of late, lowering his ERA almost a half a point from the beginning of August until the end of the season.
Both guys gave up their fair share of long balls during the season, so if there is going to be a game with offensive fireworks it'll be this one in Arlington.
Detroit heads back home knowing Doug Fister hasn't lost a home game since July 15th...when he was with Seattle. After showing a respectable 3.33 ERA for the Mariners, Fister matched Verlander's dominance down the stretch putting together a 1.79 ERA and going 8-1 in 10 starts with Detroit.
Colby Lewis is going to have to avoid giving up homers—he gave up 35 this season and five in two starts against Detroit—to keep the Rangers in this one.
Game 4 would seem to be the most favorable pitching matchup for Texas as Matt Harrison was 13-4 with a 3.39 ERA this year while Rick Porcello went 14-9 with a 4.75 ERA for the Tigers.
However Porello won his only start against the Rangers, scattering six hits and giving up one run over six innings in a 8-1 Tigers win.
Harrison was 0-2 against Detroit, allowing seven earned runs in 10 innings. The Tigers beat him up, knocking him around for 17 hits and five walks in the 10 innings.
The pitching matchups should for Game 5, 6 and 7 should in theory be the same as one through three, but strange things can happen in playoff baseball, evidenced by Verlander and CC Sabathia each only getting one real outing in the Division Series.
If either team falls behind, their ace could conceivably come back on short rest.
While the Tigers have an edge in starting pitching, the Rangers have a superior offense that is capable of exploding if Detroit doesn't have their "A" game.
There's no let down in this lineup as Michael Young, Josh Hamilton, Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre, Ian Kinsler and Mike Napoli are all capable of absolutely punishing a mistake.
The Tigers don't have the same luxury, and will have to go back to relying on the two guys who carried them all year in Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez. The late-season power addition that Delmon Young brought is absent from the ALCS roster because of an oblique strain.
Both teams have absolute knock out out bullpens. Great setup men, dominant closers. No surprise that the two best bullpens in the AL are playing for the pennant.
Ron Washington hasn't been in the managing game as long as Leyland, but seems to have a pretty good handle on it, bringing the Rangers to their second straight ALCS appearance.
Neither team has a glaring weakness, but it's hard to bet against a pitching in a short series.
TIGERS IN 6
MVP JUSTIN VERLANDER
Verlander will have a chance to win at least two games, and when he does, his team will be moving on for more October baseball.