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NYY@DET Gm3: CC, Verlander get starts in Game 3

NEW YORK -- Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia will try it again -- this time, with even more at stake.

Rain wiped out what was supposed to be a pulsating, edge-of-your-seat showdown after 1 1/2 innings in Friday night's Game 1. Now, Verlander and Sabathia will face off in Game 3 and at pitcher-friendly Comerica Park. Only this time -- because the buildup has been greater and the ramifications are now grander -- this American League Division Series matchup is even more meaningful.

Now, the two will face off in a classic swing game. If Verlander prevails, the Tigers are one victory away from advancing. If Sabathia wins, the Yankees hold that supreme advantage.

It's really that simple.

"It's obviously important," manager Joe Girardi said after his Yankees dropped Game 2 by a 5-3 score. "A lot of people talk about Game 3 being the most important game of a series all the time. It's real important."

Sabathia and Verlander each said they would've liked to come back to pitch on Sunday in order to keep open the possibility that they would pitch twice in this series. But their respective managers weren't having it.

Verlander's conversation with Jim Leyland?

"It went along the lines of, 'Hey, Skip, I can go on Sunday.' 'No, you're going on Monday.' 'OK.'"

"There was no conversation," Sabathia said of his situation with Girardi. "He told me I was pitching [Monday]."

And now here we are.

Verlander, who gave up a run on a little Yankees small ball in the first inning on Friday, takes the mound coming off a year that will likely win him the AL Cy Young Award and may even make him the AL Most Valuable Player -- after a Major League-best 24 wins, 250 strikeouts and 251 innings, and an AL-best 2.40 ERA.

For Verlander, the big question will be channeling adrenaline in a big start, a situation that in the past has caused him to overthrow and pitch outside of himself. Verlander feels he already got a feel for how he would react in this series.

"There was some adrenaline," Verlander admitted, "and anybody who says there's not is full of it. It's being able to channel it and use it the right way."

Sabathia doesn't really have that problem. Pitching amid the bright lights and unruly pressures of New York has hardened the left-hander in these situations, as he's shown with a 5-1 record and a 3.15 ERA in his postseason career with the Yankees. The worry with Sabathia is how he finished the regular season. It's not that he struggled -- a 3.06 ERA in his last five starts is pretty good -- it's that he wasn't his usual dominant self while falling short of seven innings in three of those outings and giving up 10 hits twice.

But while giving up a Delmon Young homer and striking out four in two innings on Friday, Sabathia felt his "fastball command was a lot better."

"That's something I've been struggling with the last month of the season," added Sabathia, who finished 2011 with 19 wins and a 3.00 ERA. "It was only two innings, but it was definitely a lot better than it had been."

Backed by Ivan Nova and Robinson Cano, the Yankees struck first during a 9-3 Game 1 victory on Saturday night. Backed by Max Scherzer and Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers struck back on Sunday afternoon.

Now -- at last -- the aces will have their say (weather permitting).

"I think it's going to be a big game no matter what, whether it's Game 1 in Yankee Stadium or Game 3 in Detroit," Verlander said. "Obviously, there will probably be more publicity now in Game 3 because of what occurred and all of the news that encompassed it with me and CC facing off again. ... Either way, it's going to be an exciting game."

Yankees: A-Rod needs to come through
Leyland is probably going to do whatever it takes to ensure that Cano doesn't beat him like he did in Game 1. And that's why it's so important that Alex Rodriguez comes through as the No. 4 hitter behind Cano.

So far, that hasn't been the case.

A-Rod went 0-for-3 with a walk and heard some boos in Sunday's loss. He's now 0-for-8 in these playoffs and is batting .175 (7-for-40) in the postseason since the Yankees' 2009 World Series title run.

Tigers: 2006 all over again?
That's what it's starting to look like through two games. Five years ago, the Tigers dropped the first game of the ALDS on the road against the Yankees, then won three in a row to advance.

That's not the only thing that's similar. The two teams finished the regular season with the same records as they did five years ago, and -- just like in '06 -- their ALDS has featured a rainout that has forced games to be played in three straight days.

The Tigers will hope for a similar result.

Worth noting
The Tigers' Game 2 win snapped the Yankees' seven-game ALDS winning streak. Detroit, meanwhile, snapped its four-game postseason losing streak. ... Jorge Posada played his 122nd career postseason game on Sunday, surpassing Bernie Williams for second place in Major League history. Derek Jeter leads with 149. ... Magglio Ordonez went 3-for-3 in Sunday's game, snapping an 18-at-bat hitless streak in the postseason and setting a playoff career high in hits.

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