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Published: Tuesday, 10/16/2012 - Updated: 2 years ago

Tigers throw their ace

Verlander hoping to repeat success of other starters

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander throws at Comerica Park in Detroit to prepare for his start against the New York Yankees in Game 3 of the American League championship series. Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander throws at Comerica Park in Detroit to prepare for his start against the New York Yankees in Game 3 of the American League championship series.
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DETROIT — There were times this year when Justin Ver­lander took the mound while his team was reel­ing a bit — and the right-hander's pres­ence was Detroit's best shot at snap­ping out of a mo­men­tary funk.

Now, the hard-throw­ing ace is in a dif­fer­ent sit­u­a­tion. Led by Ver­lander, the Tigers' ro­ta­tion has been ab­so­lutely ter­rific this post­sea­son, and his job is sim­ply to keep this re­mark­able run go­ing against the slump­ing New York Yan­kees.

"I think pitch­ing, much like hit­ting, is con­ta­gious," Ver­lander said. "Guys go out there night in and night out and see guys have a good game, and the next day he wants to have a good game, so on and so forth. And I think that's what we are feed­ing on right now."

The Tigers won the first two games of the AL cham­pi­on­ship se­ries in New York, hold­ing the Yan­kees score­less ex­cept for one brief up­ris­ing against closer-in-limbo Jose Valverde. With the ex­cep­tion of Valverde, no Detroit pitcher has al­lowed an earned run since Game 3 of the di­vi­sion se­ries against Oak­land.

Ver­lander takes the mound to­day at 8:07 p.m. in Game 3 of the ALCS. The reign­ing AL MVP won both his starts against the A's, throw­ing a shut­out in the de­ci­sive fifth game.

"As a ro­ta­tion, right now things are go­ing well," Ver­lander said dur­ing Mon­day's off-day. "It is nice to see us get roll­ing as a group, and hope­fully we can con­tinue it through the World Ser­ies."

Detroit's start­ers have posted an 0.94 ERA in the play­offs this year. The post­sea­son record for a start­ing staff pitch­ing at least seven games is 1.05, set by the 1920 Cleve­land In­di­ans, ac­cord­ing to STATS LLC.

Ver­lander, Max Scherzer, Doug Fis­ter, and Ani­bal San­chez are off to that type of start this year.

Detroit's pitch­ing dis­play has gone hand in hand with New York's hor­ren­dous slump. Derek Jeter is out for the year af­ter break­ing an an­kle in Game 1 of this se­ries, and the Yan­kees des­per­ately need their other stars to start hit­ting. Robin­son Cano, Alex Ro­dri­guez, Cur­tis Grand­er­son, and Nick Swisher are a com­bined 12 for 107 — for a .112 bat­ting av­er­age — in the play­offs.

Add catcher Rus­sell Mar­tin, and five reg­u­lars are be­low .200, hit­ting a com­bined 17 for 133 with 42 strike­outs — 25 more strike­outs than hits. They have a com­bined seven RBIs, four of those by Cano.

"We can't score seven runs, eight runs in one at-bat," first base­man Mark Teix­eira said. "It's mo­men­tum. When things are go­ing bad, they can be re­ally bad, but when things are go­ing good, we're ca­pa­ble of put­ting up a whole bunch of runs."

The Yan­kees have ac­tu­ally had a de­cent amount of suc­cess against Ver­lander. He faced New York three times this sea­son, and the Yan­kees won twice. Phil Hughes, who will start Game 3 for New York, pitched a com­plete game against Ver­lander in a win over the Tigers on June 3.

"Ob­vi­ously, Ver­lander is a great pitcher, but he is hu­man, and we know we can score off him," Hughes said. "I just have to do a bet­ter job than he does. It's go­ing to be a chal­lenge, but, like I said, I'm look­ing for­ward to it."

In his most re­cent start against the Yan­kees, on Aug. 6, Ver­lander struck out 14 in eight in­nings.

"You want to face fa­mil­iar pitch­ers, even if he hap­pens to be the best pitcher on the planet," Teix­eira said.

With the start­ers pitch­ing bril­liantly, Detroit's big con­cern right now is the bull­pen. Valverde al­lowed the Yan­kees to tie Game 1 with four runs in the ninth, and al­though the Tigers won 6-4 in the 12th, Detroit man­ager Jim Ley­land needed to change plans a bit. He used Phil Coke to close out a 3-0 win in Game 2, and the left-hander pitched the fi­nal two in­nings.

Coke may be a vi­a­ble op­tion against a New York lineup with plenty of left-handed power, but it's clear the sit­u­a­tion is still in flux.

"I am just go­ing to play it out and see what hap­pens, see what kind of matchup there is," Ley­land said. "I am hop­ing that Valverde in the very near fu­ture is ready to take back over. As I said, that is pretty im­por­tant that we have him."

Of course, if Detroit's ro­ta­tion keeps up its record pace, the pres­sure on the bull­pen could be min­i­mal. Can the Yan­kees pos­si­bly hit this poorly for an­other few days? Ley­land is skep­ti­cal.

"We're just hop­ing we can keep the Yan­kees from swing­ing the bats too good," Ley­land said. "You are cer­tainly con­cerned about it be­cause they are just too good. They are too good of hit­ters and you know they will break out at some point. You just try to shut them down to the best of your abil­ity and scratch out a few runs. The runs are pretty much at a pre­mium so far."

HE'LL MANAGE: New York Yan­kees bench coach Tony Pena was in Boston on Mon­day, in­ter­view­ing for the Red Sox man­ag­ing job that opened when Bobby Val­en­tine was re­cently fired.

The 55-year-old Pena was the 2003 AL man­ager of the year with Kan­sas City. He was hon­ored af­ter lead­ing the Roy­als to a win­ning sea­son, their only one since 1994.

A five-time all-star and four-time Gold Glove catcher, Pena has ties to the Red Sox. He played for Boston from 1990-93, and his son, Tony, Jr., spent the last two years pitch­ing in Tri­ple-A for the Red Sox.

Pena has been the Yan­kees' bench coach for four years, fol­low­ing three sea­sons as their first base coach.

"Tony is a good base­ball guy, one of the guys that played in the game for al­most 20 years," Yan­kees first base­man Mark Teix­eira said Mon­day.

DISPLEASED DONALD: Don­ald Trump has called on star Alex Ro­dri­guez to do­nate his con­tract to char­ity.

"He doesn't make the (at)yan­kees any money, and he doesn't per­form," Trump tweeted. "He is a $30M/yr rip off."

Ro­dri­guez is 3 for 23 this year in the play­offs, but he wasn't the only Yan­kees player that Trump gave a hard time. Derek Jeter is out for the sea­son af­ter break­ing his an­kle in Game 1, and Trump nee­dled him for his real es­tate de­ci­sions.

"Derek Jeter had a great ca­reer un­til three days ago when he sold his apart­ment at Trump World Tower," Trump tweeted.



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