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ALCS Game 4 Preview: Yankees at Tigers

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Max Scherzer will look to finish off an improbable sweep tonight, but will have to do so against Yankees ace CC Sabathia.

The Star-Ledger-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

New York Yankees at Detroit Tigers

Series: 3-0, Detroit

Time/Place: 4:00 p.m., Comerica Park

Tickets: Check for availability from TiqIQ

SB Nation Blog: Pinstriped Bible

Media: TBS, Postseason.TV, Tigers Radio Network

Pitching Matchup: LHP CC Sabathia (15-6, 3.38 ERA) vs. RHP Max Scherzer (16-7, 3.74 ERA)

Sabathia's gem in Game 5 of the ALDS was largely overshadowed by Verlander's shutout the day before, but make no mistake: he's on a roll right now. In his two starts against the Baltimore Orioles, Sabathia pitched 17 2/3 innings and allowed three earned runs on 12 hits. He also had 16 strikeouts to just three walks.

Sabathia has some fairly mediocre career numbers against the Tigers, but was 3-0 with a 3.32 ERA against Detroit in the regular season. Of course, it helps when your offense puts up 27 runs in those three games. That won't happen tonight. Still, expect Sabathia to make the Tigers offense look foolish this evening while he works deep into the game. He struck out 20 Tigers batters in 21 2/3 innings this season while throwing an average of just 14.4 pitches per inning. For a workhorse like CC, 14 pitches per inning equates to a 126-pitch complete game. Take pitches. Work the count. Get to the bullpen.

Scherzer's outing in Game 4 of the ALDS last just 5 1/3 innings and 91 pitches, and even though he only allowed one unearned run, there were still causes for concern. His velocity dipped to the low 90s during his last inning, making me wonder if he still isn't 100% recovered from the shoulder strain that sidelined him towards the end of the regular season. Six days of rest should help his velocity, but will he show signs of rust? During the regular season, Scherzer's ERA increased with more time off, elevating from 3.29 with the normal four days rest to a frightening 5.27 with 6 days of rest or more (though, to be fair, this is a sample of just three starts). If Scherzer can get through the first couple innings smoothly and settle in, we should be in for yet another pitcher's duel.

Outlook

It's hard to be pessimistic when you're up 3-0, but it's not exactly smooth sailing from here either. The Yankees' rotation is set up nicely, with Sabathia and Andy Pettitte pitching in Games 4 and 5. They have their backs against the wall, which may take some of the pressure off of their offense. It will be up to Sabathia to keep it that way. If the Tigers are able to jump out to an early lead -- even by a run or two -- then the pressure is back on.

Prediction

A walk-off hit sends the Tigers to the World Series. Wait, where have I seen this before?