By winning Monday, the Tigers took a commanding 2-1 lead in their best-of-five series with the Yankees, putting them in position to potentially clinch the ALDS Tuesday in their home park. Unfortunately for the Yankees, their last line of defense with their season on the brink is A.J. Burnett, easily the worst starter in New York's rotation.
Quite literally, it was never supposed to be this way -- Burnett wasn't expected to start a single game in the ALDS until the 24-hour rain delay in Game 1 forced Joe Girardi's hand. Burnett, of course, understands the awkward situation in which he's suddenly been placed, and vows he won't crumble under the pressure.
"I've been proving people wrong my whole career," Burnett told reporters before Game 3. "People are entitled to their opinion. Obviously, I give them reasons here and there to doubt. The bottom line is I have confidence in myself. I'm not going to go out and try to prove anything. I'm going to go out and try to win a ballgame."
To be fair, Rick Porcello hasn't been confused with Tigers ace Justin Verlander very often this year. In fact, both Porcello and Burnett relied more than most on their teammates to bail them out this year: they ranked second and eighth, respectively, in run support among qualified AL pitchers this past season. But Burnett may find run support hard to come by if Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeira can't break out of their combined 1-for-21 series slump.
Both pitchers were better in September than their season numbers suggest, with Porcello posting a 3.55 ERA in five starts. On paper this looks like a potential slugfest, but both teams are hitting just .239 after three games.
Game Date/Time: 8:30 p.m. ET, October 4, 2011
Stadium: Comerica Park, Detroit, Michigan
New York: A.J. Burnett (11-11, 5.15 ERA)
Detroit: Rick Porcello (14-9, 4.75 ERA)
Check out Bill Petti's preview of the ALDS series between the Tigers and Yankees at Beyond The Boxscore. For more on the Yankees, visit Pinstripe Alley. For more on the Tigers, head to Bless You Boys.