The 2012 postseason began with 10 teams for the first time, and now one of those clubs is just one win away from a trip to the World Series -- the one goal all 10 had in mind when the playoffs began.Of course, if this uniquely unpredictable postseason session has taught us anything, it's that being one win away, or even one strike away, does not mean being all the way there. Still, the Detroit Tigers are the envy of those other nine playoff teams, along with the other 20 clubs that reported to Spring Training in February.
On the doorstep of the World Series, the Tigers still have a significant piece of work to do after a tense 2-1 victory Tuesday in Game 3 of the American League Championship Series. It's a win that gave them a 3-0 ALCS advantage -- and the Yankees don't need to be reminded that only one team has recovered from that deficit: the 2004 Red Sox."Hopefully we can go out [Wednesday] and shut this down," said Tigers starter Justin Verlander, who shut down the Yankees into the ninth inning Tuesday night. "If it doesn't happen, then reset and go out the next day. Never take anything for granted. "In the postseason, we have seen some crazy things happen in this game and just try to win every single game, one inning at a time." The responsibility of pitching the Tigers into the World Series rests on right-hander Max Scherzer, and in Game 4 he'll be up against an ace of Verlander's stature in Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia -- who, like Verlander, closed out the Division Series with a complete-game victory to push his team to the next round.
Before the ALCS goes out on the ledge, the National League Championship Series will return to the field, with the Cardinals and Giants making it look like their scuffle is far from decided. They're all square heading into Game 3 with subplots abound, beginning with the fallout from the Matt Holliday-Marco Scutaro collision in Game 2.The LCS doubleheader will begin with the NLCS matchup pitting the Giants' Matt Cain against the Cardinals' Kyle Lohse in a 4 p.m. ET start on FOX. That will be followed by Game 4 of the ALCS at 8 p.m. ET on TBS, which will either send a team to the World Series or extend the best-of-seven matchup. It wouldn't have been the 2012 postseason without some ninth-inning drama in Game 3 of the ALCS, and it held to the script. The 2-1 result marked the ninth one-run outcome among the 27 postseason games played this October and the 14th decided by two runs or fewer. That, even after Verlander dominated into the ninth and the Tigers supported him just enough with Miguel Cabrera continuing his LCS-record 16-game hitting streak and Delmon Young delivering the power again. Detroit starters wound up setting postseason records with 37 2/3 innings without allowing an unearned run and with 30 1/3 consecutive innings without allowing any run before Eduardo Nunez's homer off Verlander to lead off the ninth. And Robinson Cano stopped his hitless streak at 0-for-29, a Yankees postseason record, with a ninth-inning single before Tigers lefty Phil Coke closed the door on Raul Ibanez. The bottom line? The Yankees didn't get anything going against Verlander until it was too late. "Our guys put the ball in play and tried to get on base, but, you know, when you face Verlander, you know what you're up against," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. While the Tigers were putting the Yankees up against it, the NLCS foes were taking to the field at Busch Stadium for a workout. Just as it was after Monday's Game 2, Slidegate was in full bloom, 24 hours after the late barrel slide Holliday rolled into Scutaro's leg in Game 2. "All of a sudden I saw this train coming," Scutaro recalled Tuesday, speaking for the first time about the play and with his status uncertain for Game 3. Holliday maintained his innocence on intent, pleading guilty only to playing hard and trying to break up a double play. "That's really all it comes down to," Holliday said. "People can say whatever they want. I hope he's OK." Neither team is looking beyond the task at hand, but the increasing possibility of a Game 4 start by two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum remained a hot topic as well, although the Giants aren't tipping their hand. "If they needed me to, absolutely," Lincecum said, echoing what he said at the outset of the playoffs when the discussion was about pitching in relief. But that's Game 4, and there's still Game 3 of the NLCS to go. When the Yankees and Tigers hit the field for Game 4 of their series, both teams' seasons will be on the line. The Yankees will have to win to avoid a sweep. The Tigers, now 9-4 at home in overall LCS play and winners of five of their last six home games in this round, know they can secure the franchise's 11th World Series appearance with one more win. One. But they know as well as anyone, it's no cinch to clinch, especially not this postseason. The Reds had three chances to clinch the Division Series at home, but the Giants prevailed, making history in the process. The Tigers went through two chances to clinch at Oakland before getting it done. The Cardinals were down to their last strike -- twice -- before rallying to beat the Nationals. "We're not looking at it as we can clinch [Wednesday], we're just going in there to play a baseball game," Young said. "If we win, we can punch our tickets to the World Series. If we lose, we have to come back out here Thursday."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.