At the beginning of the season it would have been hard to imagine Max Scherzer having any chance against New York Yankees ace, CC Sabathia. In fact, Scherzer pitched one of his worst games of the season against the Yankees back in April, walking 7 batters and leaving the game in the 4th inning with a 5.79 ERA. It was an embarrassing outing for the right-handed Detroit Tiger, who prides himself on limiting walks to opposing batters. It was also the turning point for what would become a dominant season that has now come full circle as Scherzer takes the mound tonight against the Yankees, with a chance to send the Tigers to the World Series.
The Yankees trot out theirbiggest pitching threat in Sabathia. In the past, whenever Sabathia took the mound against the Tigers, Detroit would answer with their own pitching phenom, Justin Verlander. This time, Detroit manager Jim Leyland started Verlander in game 3, putting Scherzer in position to redeem his April outing. If he can out-pitch Sabathia, Scherzer will complete the sweep against the New York Yankees, and Detroit will represent the American League in the World Series.
The 28 year old Scherzer, who worked his way up to “co-ace” status in the Tigers bullpen, suffered shoulder fatigue as the season was winding down, and Leyland has been very selective with the use of the talented righty. Scherzer’s only outing this postseason was a perfect 5 1/3 inning appearance against the Oakland Athletics, the most work he had seen since early September.
Chances are, Jim Leyland will not leave Scherzer on the mound much later than the 6th inning, even if he is still pitching well at that point. Run support from the Tigers will play largely into Leyland’s decision, but the crafty manager knows the Yankees are a sleeping giant that can wake up at the plate and change the momentum of a ball game in an instant.
If Scherzer, who threw a career high 231 strikes this season, can keep the Yankees off of the scoreboard, the bullpen will undoubtedly be asked to bring the win home. Outside of the surprising melt down of Detroit’s closer Jose Valverde, the bullpen has been up to the challenge, and the confidence level around the clubhouse is at the highest it has been all season.
The Tigers know the dangers of letting the Yankees hang around, and will want to finish this series tonight. New York’s bats have been struggling the entire post season, but with the talent and power that litters their line up, Detroit knows that could change at any minute.
As for the Yankees, they know it is possible to come back from 3 down in a series. They watched helplessly while the Boston Red Sox did it to them back in the 2004 League Championship Series, and are hoping they can keep their season alive by getting past Scherzer tonight.
Jeff Everette is a Featured Columnist for RantSports.com, covering the NFL and NBA. Follow Jeff on twitter @jeverettesports, like his page on FaceBook, or add his Google + to your circles for all of his latest articles, thoughts, and rants.