Here's what we know about the Yankees divisional series at the moment. It starts on Wednesday night just after 6 p.m. and CC Sabathia will be throwing the first pitch that counts shortly after, we're assuming, Yogi Berra chucks one that doesn't. Beyond that, everything from the opposing hitter to the letter on his hat is unknown. Will Mayor Bloomberg's anti-smoking crusade claim Tigers manager Jim Leyland as a victim? Will Carl Pavano make his return to the Bronx in a playoff start? Tune in to find out.
There's nothing about Tuesday's AL Central one-game playoff that doesn't work for the Yankees. The down to the wire nature of the race and extra game means that neither the Tigers nor the Twins will be able to match their best pitcher against Sabathia, nor will they get to start that pitcher a second time unless they find two wins from lesser starters. That seems unlikely given the fact that the Tigers have the only win in 13 combined games against the Bronx Bombers this season. Beyond those shared traits, each team has individual issues that benefit the Yankees.
If the Tigers win at the Metrodome on Tuesday afternoon, they'll jet to New York to play their third game in four days in three cities. They'll be bringing armfuls of baggage with them as a result of their best hitter Miguel Cabrera having the police called to his house early Saturday to break up a fight with his wife. That's catnip to the New York media that will almost certainly ignore Cabrera's request that no one continue talking about it.
If it is the Twins who prevail, they'll roll into town without Scott Baker, their best pitcher, being able to pitch until Game Three and without Justin Morneau, a key lineup cog who has been out with a back injury since early September. The pitching stacks up so that it would likely be Pavano starting Game Two, a surreal prospect that would make for one of the more interesting crowd reactions in recent memory. And for all the talk about momentum, there's scant evidence that the Twins' hot streak makes them any tougher an opponent than they would be if they'd been in the playoffs since August.
An addendum to all of that is that the Yankees have been a demonstrably better team than either the Tigers or Twins this season, although that's to be taken with a large grain of salt. The Yankees were also better than the Tigers team that beat them in 2006 and have been paper favorites in most, if not all, of their postseason losses this decade. Thanks to the additions of Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Mark Teixeira and others, the Yankees have the power pitching and defense that they've lacked in many of those seasons, but short series remain something of a crapshoot for even the most talented of teams.
That's why it helps to have every advantage you can dig up, including a 163rd game for your opponent.