|In Game 2 of the ALCS, Hiroki Kuroda will do something he's never done before. (Getty Images)|
NEW YORK -- Game 2 of the ALCS presents an intriguing match-up, as the occasionally brilliant Anibal Sanchez (9-13, 3.86) opposes Hiroki Kuroda (16-11, 3.32), who's been perhaps the best value free-agent signing of the season. The wrinkle in this one is that Kuroda will be making his first career start on short rest. Needless to say, the Yankees could use a lift right about now …
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Sanchez vs. Yankees
Sanchez had been a National League lifer (at least as a major-leaguer) until his pre-deadline trade from Miami to the Tigers. He did, however, face the Yankees on Aug. 8 in Comerica. In that start, he was knocked around pretty handily: 3.0 IP, 7 R, 7 H, 2 K, 2 BB, 1 HR (and that was against a lineup that included Casey McGehee). His only previous appearance against the Yankees came in 2006, when he was still a Marlin: 5 2/3 IP, 0 R, 7 H, 2 K, 0 BB.
Over the years, Sanchez has become increasingly less reliant upon his fastball, and 2012 was the first season in which he didn't throw it a majority of the time. That's potentially good news, as the Yankees in the regular season were, to the extent that we can accurately measure such things, easily the AL's best offense against fastballs but were much less effective against off-speed and breaking stuff. So Sanchez might do well to lean on his secondary pitches in Game 2.
Current Yankee hitters have a combined career line of .333/.406/.474 in 64 plate appearances against Sanchez.
Kuroda vs. Tigers
Unlike Sanchez, Kuroda has spent an entire season in the junior circuit, and that's yielded a pair of starts against the Tigers in 2012. In the first, on June 2 in Detroit, he gave up two runs on seven hits in 7.0 innings of work. In the second, on Aug. 9, again in Detroit, he gave up three runs and scattered 10 hits across 6 1/3 frames. Current Tiger hitters over their careers are crushing Kuroda: .347/.365/.569 with four home runs in 80 plate appearances.
The real issue (besides, of course, keeping the middle of the Detroit order in check) will be how Kuroda responds to pitching on short rest and outside of his long-term routine.