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ALCS Gm4: CC looks ahead to taking mound in Game 4

DETROIT -- This is unfamiliar turf for the New York Yankees. For only the fourth time, they are down three games to none in a postseason series.

This was not the kind of history they had in mind when they welcomed the Detroit Tigers to Yankee Stadium on Saturday, looking to use home-field advantage as a springboard to a trip to the World Series.

Now it's Detroit, behind a dominant rotation and timely hitting, on the precipice of its first Fall Classic since 2006. The Tigers go for the sweep on Wednesday night, sending right-hander Max Scherzer out to engage Yankees ace CC Sabathia at Comerica Park.

"They are going to come ready to attack me," Scherzer said, "so I have to be ready to attack them."

Teams leading 3-0 are 31-1 in postseason history. The lone exception is a painful 2004 memory for Yankees fans and the source of enduring joy for Red Sox faithful.

History offers their fans less comfort than the Yankees' disappearing offense. In those three previous postseason series in which they fell behind 3-0, they were swept -- by Frankie Frisch and the 1922 New York Giants, by Sandy Koufax and the 1963 Los Angeles Dodgers and by Johnny Bench and the 1976 Cincinnati Reds.

No World Series team in 23 efforts has come from a 3-0 deficit to prevail, and it hasn't happened in five National League Championship Series. In ALCS play teams leading 3-0 are 3-1.

It's no secret how the Tigers have seized control of this ALCS. Their pitching has muzzled a Yankees offense hitting a collective .182 with five runs in three games -- all on the strength of home runs.

New York has scored in only two of 30 innings.

Eduardo Nunez's leadoff homer in the ninth was the extent of the New York attack against Justin Verlander in Game 3. The only runs produced in the first two games came on ninth-inning two-run homers by Ichiro Suzuki and Raul Ibanez in Game 1.

"As cold as we are," Sabathia said, "we can get just as hot, especially with our lineup and the veterans we have and great players we have.

"We always have faith that if you gout and do your job, you are going to score runs. And we have all year."

From April through September, yes. But conditions in October have been frigid.

Yankees manager Joe Girardi presented a new-look attack against Verlander, who would have been a challenge for the Bronx Bombers' Murderers' Rows of 1927 and 1961.

Brett Gardner, Eric Chavez and Nunez were thrust into the lineup, with Alex Rodriguez and Nick Swisher taking seats on the bench. Nunez moved in at shortstop after Jayson Nix had started Game 2 in place of Derek Jeter, whose season ended with his fractured left ankle in the 12th inning of Game 1.

"We're trying to put together good at-bats," said Chavez, who replaced A-Rod at third and was hitless in three trips. "You're trying to do whatever you can, but we continue to not swing the bats good.

"Hopefully, we're going to come out loose [against Scherzer] and try to get one. He's tough. What you don't want to do is expand the zone against him. His ball's a little different than Verlander's -- more deception and late run. The radar gun says 95 [mph], but that's where the comparison stops."

The Yankees no doubt are having serious regrets about losing Game 4 of the AL Division Series to the Orioles. It meant Sabathia, who would have been fresh for Game 1 of the ALCS, had to work the deciding Game 5 in New York. He dispatched Baltimore, but it made him unavailable for the first three games against the Tigers.

"What has happened has happened," Girardi said, "and you have to find a way to score runs tomorrow. You have your ace on the mound, and you see what happens. Win a game tomorrow and then let's see what happens."

Sabathia has been close to as good as Verlander in this postseason. He worked 17 2/3 innings against the Orioles in taking Games 1 and 5, allowing three runs while striking out 16.

In 18 postseason appearances, 17 as a starter, Sabathia is 9-4 with a 4.25 ERA.

"He's our No. 1 guy," Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano said. "He knows how to pitch in these games. We have to back him up with some runs."

The Tigers, with 11 runs in three games and a .259 team average, haven't exactly mauled Yankees pitching. Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder have been kept in the park, but Delmon Young has homered twice, giving him six in his postseason career against New York.

Cabrera, with an RBI double in Game 3, is hitting .364 in the series. The Triple Crown winner extended his LCS hitting streak to all 16 games he has played, breaking a record he'd shared with Manny Ramirez and Pete Rose.

On the heels of a brilliant season, Cano has gone flat. He had his mystifying stretch of 29 consecutive at-bats without a hit -- unprecedented in postseason history -- end when he lined a single to left field in the ninth inning of Game 3 against former teammate Phil Coke.

"We need Cano to come back hot [in Game 4]," Nunez said. "I talk with him a lot, and he told me he was seeing the ball better, feeling better. He's had some bad luck, but I think he's coming back tomorrow with a great game."

Cano didn't sound as if he'd found something that had been missing in that successful at-bat against Coke.

"People say you're swinging too hard, not going the other way when you're not getting hits," he said. "It doesn't make any difference. I'm going to do the same thing I do every day. I'm going to go out positive every day.

"This is not the way you want to be. This is baseball. We're not getting beat by seven, six runs. These have been close games."

A World Series appearance would be the 11th in Tigers history. They have won four times, most recently in 1984, when they put away San Diego in five games. They fell to St. Louis in five games in 2006 and wouldn't mind a shot at revenge, with the Cardinals still in the picture.

"Hopefully," said Verlander, "we can go out tomorrow and shut this down."

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