Well here we are: back to the Sabathia/Verlander matchup that we were so eagerly anticipating last Friday. Only this time the teams will take the field in Detroit rather than the Bronx, and in lieu of Game 1, these aces will take the mound in a Game 3 that feels like a Game 1. The Yankees lineup will remain the same as it has for the previous two games:
So what’s the key to beating a pitcher like Verlander? The Yankees will need to play smart baseball. That means avoiding crucial base running mistakes that take the air out of a rally, and tightening up the defense. Jeter’s throwing error yesterday on a Romine ground ball to lead off the 6th inning should have resulted in the first out, but instead Romine reached safely and promptly went first-to-third on a single from Ordonez. The Tigers went on to score twice in that inning. You can’t give an offense like the Tigers extra outs, but this becomes even more important when Verlander is on the mound and runs are at a premium.
The Yankees also need to play a little small ball. Think what you will about the chatter that the Yankees rely too much on home runs – but the chances of hitting multiple bombs off of Verlander seem pretty slim. He gave up just 24 home runs all season, or 1 per every 37.7 batters he faced. The breakdown is even worse for left-handed batters, who hit 1 home run ever 49.5 at bats (as opposed to 1 in 29.2 ABs for rightys). The Yankees need to take advantage of their running game where they can tonight – go first-to-third, swipe a base here and there. Basically, take a page out of the pesky Angels’ book and beat them on the base paths if you can’t beat them with the long ball.