Too early for Yanks to focus on first playoff foe

Too early for Yanks to focus on first playoff foe

Too early for Yanks to focus on first playoff foe
NEW YORK -- It's too early to begin painting logos for the American League Division Series on the grass at Yankee Stadium, but the Yankees already have a pretty good idea of who they might be going up against.

The Tigers and Rangers are the likeliest clubs to be checking their bags when home playoff games get under way in the Bronx, but the Yankees thus far are refusing to take on a rooting interest.

"I've said this a bunch of times before: be careful what you wish for," Yankees first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "We don't know who we're going to play, we just want to be playing our best ball."

The Angels are hanging in the Wild Card chase, tied with the Rays at 2 1/2 games behind the Red Sox, but New York's opponent will probably be determined by the lower winning percentage of Detroit (90-65) and Texas (90-65).

"There's some great teams that are going to be in," CC Sabathia said. "It's just up to us to play our game and try to win a ballgame."

It should not have been surprising that the Yankees didn't have strong opinions one way or the other. They all but tuned out the fizzling Red Sox this week, preferring to focus on reeling off wins in machine-like fashion to fulfill their goals.

What the Yankees wanted to talk more about on Wednesday was something they can continue to control -- their pursuit of home-field advantage, looking to secure the best record in the AL.

"Our job is to go out there every day and be a blue-collar group and win games," Alex Rodriguez said. "When you're a horse and you're trying to race your own race, you don't worry about anyone else. Whoever we play, we play."

At 95-60 with seven games left, manager Joe Girardi will balance resting his weary veterans against piling up the needed victories, wanting to ensure his team gets extra games at Yankee Stadium -- where they are 48-27 (.640) this year.

"It's real important because I really believe that we're built around this ballpark," Girardi said. "I think all clubs try to build their teams around their ballpark, and we're built around this ballpark, so it is important, and I want to be able to start at home."

Between Detroit and Texas, the Yankees had more regular-season success with the Rangers, winning seven of their nine meetings this year.

Of course, it was in Arlington that the Yankees' rush toward the World Series met its bitter end in a six-game AL Championship Series last October, but this time around there is no Cliff Lee to fear.

Having Lee in Philadelphia instead of Arlington might be some consolation for now, but the Rangers still have big-time challenges to conquer in dominant left-hander C.J. Wilson and slugger Josh Hamilton, among others.

"We need to get a little sharper and rested up, there's no doubt," Teixeira said. "Our bullpen has done a great job, our starting pitching has done a great job. We've got a lot of position players that play every day. At the same time, it'll be nice to get a little rest before the playoffs start."

The Tigers, to whom the Yankees lost four of seven meetings this season, wouldn't be a cakewalk either.

Justin Verlander promises to make a few October nights miserable for someone, rocketing to merit serious consideration not only in the Cy Young Award race, but also the AL Most Valuable Player balloting.

That kind of an arm in a five-game series is enough to give Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson a reason to pause.

"You're going to see Verlander twice for 18 innings," Jackson said. "He's going to be there. He starts at 7 o'clock, he's going to be there at 9:45. You're going to have an evening with Mr. Verlander. He's going to be there all night."

The Yankees opened their season against the Tigers in the Bronx, winning two of three, but dropped three of four in a four-game series at Comerica Park in May.

Detroit can toss Doug Fister and Max Scherzer to battle the Yankees' lineup, and while it's not fair to compare anyone with Mariano Rivera, the Tigers do feel confident handing closer Jose Valverde a late lead.

Thus, a loss to Detroit might not be a surprise like in 2006, when A-Rod batted eighth and a first-round exit to the Tigers very nearly closed the door on Joe Torre's managerial tenure.

Former Tigers outfielder Curtis Granderson was non-committal when asked about the possibility of playing his old team.

"If it ends up happening that way, I'll be excited for it," Granderson said. "But at the same time, we can't right that ship until it does happen. I wish them well. I hope they continue to advance, just like I hope we do."

Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @bryanhoch. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.