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10/02/11 11:04 PM ET

Tigers, Yankees have seen this before

Similar to '06, Detroit heads home with momentum

NEW YORK -- The Yankees and Tigers have been here before -- five years ago, precisely, in another American League Division Series. The two teams opened with the first two games in New York. Just like this year, there was a rainout that eliminated the travel day.

The Yankees won Game 1 and the Tigers came back to capture Game 2 before heading to Detroit's Comerica Park. The Tigers hammered the Yankees in the final two games to win the series. It's all happening again and the Tigers now could have the upper hand. Their ace, Justin Verlander, is slated to start Game 3 against Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia in what was supposed to be the mega matchup of Game 1.

"Our No. 1 goal was to come here and split," said Max Scherzer, who pitched six-plus innings of two-hit ball as the Tigers held off a furious ninth-inning rally in a downpour to win Game 2 on Sunday, 5-3. "Since we were able to do that and because of what happened with the rain, now we're able to give [Verlander] the ball for Game 3. For us, we have to like where we're sitting."

Verlander was made available to again face Sabathia in what now may be a critical Game 3 at Comerica because of Friday night's rainout and suspension of Game 1 at Yankee Stadium. Verlander pitched one inning and threw 25 pitches. Sabathia worked two innings and expended 27 pitches. Doug Fister and Ivan Nova replaced them when Game 1 resumed on Saturday night and the Yankees won, 9-3.

The open question right now is how effective either ace pitcher will be after having to rev it up again three nights later.

"I can't really explain how it's going to be because I haven't made my start yet," Verlander said prior to Sunday's game. "I would think it might be a little bit easier than you might expect because I've gone through all the preparations once already."

The rain situation set up a four-day run of games on four successive days. In 2006, the Yankees had a similarly big, 8-4, win in Game 1 at the old Yankee Stadium and Game 2 was pushed back a day because of rain. That set up three games on successive days in the two cities. The Tigers came from behind to defeat the Yankees, 4-3, in Game 2, the tightest game of the series.

A rookie named Verlander happened to be the starter in that game, but he lasted only 5 1/3 innings. This year he was 24-5 and is everyone's consensus pick to win the AL's Cy Young Award.

What to do against Verlander?

"Swing and miss at the third strike, hope it skips to the backstop and run to first," quipped Yankees shortstop and captain Derek Jeter, who did just that leading off against Verlander on Friday night. "That's what I've learned."

But seriously.

"Verlander, he's arguably been the best pitcher in baseball this entire year," added Jeter, who, of course, was on that Yankees team that lost to the Tigers five years ago. "It's going to be a challenge for us. It's going to be tough."

In 2006, the Yankees lost the final two games of the series by a combined score of 14-3. The Tigers went on to sweep the A's in the AL Championship Series and lost to the Cardinals in five World Series games.

It's projected to be 50 degrees and partly cloudy in downtown Detroit on Monday night. At Yankee Stadium on Sunday, rain came in droves twice late in the game, but the umpires decided to play through. The game ended with Jose Valverde on the mound, two Yankee runs in, two runners on, two out and the winning run at the plate in the presence of Robinson Cano, who bounced out to second baseman Ramon Santiago.

"It's the same thing that happened the last time," Santiago said. "Hopefully it's good luck. We go home now with our ace on the mound, on our home court."

"Maybe history will repeat itself," added right fielder Magglio Ordonez, who also played for that Tigers team.

Just like 2006, the split of the first two games gave the Tigers life.

Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.