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Strength no issue as CC preps for Game 3

Strength no issue as CC preps for Game 3

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Strength no issue as CC preps for Game 3
NEW YORK -- The sneak preview came at Yankee Stadium on Friday evening, when CC Sabathia and Justin Verlander traded blows until Game 1 of the American League Division Series was suspended due to rain.

Now, Sabathia and Verlander are back, pitching the sequel of what was supposed to be the postseason's best first-round pitching matchup.

"I would have liked to have pitched the game, all the build-up and everything," Sabathia said.

He will, of course -- just three days later than anticipated.

"They're all big games at this point in the season," Sabathia said. "I'll just try to go out and get off to a good start, pound the strike zone and hopefully pitch well."

Tale of the Tape: Game 3
2011 Regular Season
Overall: 34 GS, 24-5, 2.40 ERA, 57 BB, 250 K
Overall: 33 GS, 19-8, 3.40 ERA, 61 BB, 230 K
Key stat: Has won 12 straight decisions
Key stat: Sixth in AL in strikeouts per nine innings
At Comerica Park
2011: 16 GS, 10-3, 2.37
Career: 98 GS, 57-23, 3.24
2011: 1 GS, 0-1, 5.14
Career: 14 GS, 7-5, 4.30
Against this opponent
2011: 2 GS, 0-0, 4.50
Career: 10 GS, 4-3, 3.97
2011: 2 GS, 0-1, 4.15
Career: 32 GS, 15-12, 4.54
Loves to face.: Nick Swisher, 8-for-49
Hates to face: Derek Jeter, 10-for-29
Loves to face: Victor Martinez, 6-for-26
Hates to face: Ramon Santiago, 7-for-24
Game breakdown
Why he'll win: Best pitcher in the Majors all season
Why he'll win: 11-5 with a 2.93 ERA on the road
Pitcher beware: Has walked two batters in the first inning of all three starts vs. NYY
Pitcher beware: Tigers have had his number throughout his career
Bottom line: Home cooking
Bottom line: Been here before

Sabathia's modesty makes that task seem difficult. Usually for the left-hander, it is not. Winning 19 games with a 3.00 ERA this season, Sabathia struck out 230 batters and walked just 61 in 237 1/3 innings. The only problem is, Verlander was better. With 24 victories, 250 strikeouts, 57 walks and a 2.40 ERA for the Tigers, Verlander is all but certain to be the AL's uncontested Cy Young Award winner after the season.

Then again, perhaps both the Yankees and Tigers can throw statistics out the window heading into Game 3, considering that their starting pitchers will be facing uncharted territory. Following brief outings in Friday's rain-shortened game, both Sabathia and Verlander will be pitching on two days' rest.

Famous for his success on short rest in postseasons past, Sabathia has rarely had to proceed with so little. This season, in fact, Sabathia never pitched with anything less than a full four days' rest between starts. And he certainly never left a game after two innings and 27 pitches due to circumstances beyond his control.

Had Sabathia not thrown a lengthy bullpen session before Friday's game and a simulated inning during the rain delay, he might have even been able to start Game 2 in place of Freddy Garcia. As it was, the Yankees held Sabathia back until Monday, fully confident in the left-hander's ability to combat the Tigers at full strength.

"I always feel if I take the ball, I'm healthy enough and feel good enough to go out there and give my best effort," Sabathia said. "Sometimes that doesn't always happen, but I wouldn't go out there if I didn't feel right."

Verlander, for his part, offered similar confidence in his own abilities.

"It's going to be a big game no matter what, whether it's Game 1 at Yankee Stadium or Game 3 in Detroit," Verlander said. "Obviously, there will be a little bit more publicity now for Game 3 because of what occurred and all the news that encompassed it with me and CC facing off again."

And for good reason. Due to the way the schedule unfolded, with the Cardinals and Rays needing all 162 regular-season games to secure a postseason berth, many of this year's first-round series featured relative mismatches, with aces squaring off against mid-rotation starters. Not so with the Yankees and Tigers, each of whom clinched a playoff spot well in advance of season's end and had the luxury of aligning their rotations just right.

That meant that both Sabathia and Verlander entered Game 1 well-rested and eager, until the rains came and altered their plans.

Now, after some rotation shuffling and perhaps even a bit of gamesmanship (Yankees manager Joe Girardi waited until Sunday morning to confirm his plans), Sabathia and Verlander are prepared for Game 3 -- in front of what is sure to be a raucous Comerica Park crowd. They are two of the game's best pitchers, arguably the top two starters in the AL.

Needless to say, they are both prepared.

"I feel pretty good," Sabathia said. "I played catch and did my routine in the weight room. I'm ready to go."

Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDicomo. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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