The Tigers weren’t able to escape Oakland while also lining up Justin Verlander for the American League Championship Series opener, but after Wednesday’s debacle we’re all more than happy with the series win all the same. The ALCS pitching rotation won’t be the ideal one, but the good news is that the potential opponents – either Baltimore or New York – will be in the same boat (or worse) after playing their own Game Five on Friday. Game one will open in New York if the Yankees win their series, or it will open in Detroit if Baltimore wins it.
Here’s how Detroit’s rotation should go if everyone pitches on normal rest:
Game One – Saturday, October 13
Doug Fister will be the only starting pitcher fully rested for Saturday after Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander were used over the past three days. He’s no Verlander, but still isn’t a bad option for the first game of a series. He’s shown that he’s more than capable of delivering a quality outing in big situations.
Game Two – Sunday, October 14
Anibal Sanchez will be in line to pitch game two on normal rest. You’d rather see Verlander or Scherzer here, of course, but, after a shaky start in Detroit, Sanchez has been the steady playoff-caliber arm that the organization thought they were originally getting for well over a month now. Teams could do much worse from their number four pitcher.
Game Three – Tuesday, October 16
With an off-day scheduled on Monday to allow for travel, Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer will both be rested in time for Tuesday’s game three. Either one could go, but the Tigers will undoubtedly elect to go with their ace in order to also line him up for a potential game seven.
Game Four – Wednesday, October 17
Max Scherzer will be afforded a couple extra rest days if he pitches game four which is probably not a bad thing considering his recently-wonky deltoid muscle and potentially-still-tweaked ankle. He did not appear to be bothered by either ailment in his start last Wednesday – he was very effective while he was in the game – but he did seemingly tire a bit sooner than might have been otherwise expected.
Game Five – Thursday, October 18*
Fister will be in line to pitch in game five if neither team has swept the series. This will either be the final game in Detroit (if New York beats Baltimore) or the final game on the road before heading back to Comerica Park (if Baltimore wins).
Game Six – Saturday, October 20*
Jim Leyland’s plan to start Sanchez in game three of the ALDS instead of Scherzer may come back to haunt him a little bit as it will be Sanchez who’s in line to make two ALCS starts, not Scherzer.
Game Seven – Sunday, October 21*
Justin Verlander will once again be ready to pitch in a winner-take-all scenario if it comes to that. If you could draw it up you’d probably rather have him go in games one and five with bullpen availability in game seven, but this isn’t a completely horrible alternative. We just witnessed what he can do when the pressure is all on his shoulders. Scherzer (and possibly also Fister) would likely be available in the bullpen for an inning or two if he’s needed.
*Custom requires me to point out that these games currently exist only in an “if necessary” sense.