NEW YORK -- Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander walked into the press conference room on Sunday prior to Game 2 at Yankee Stadium and looked at the media crowd.
"Déjà vu," quipped Verlander, who was 24-5 record with a 2.40 ERA this season.
Verlander never expected to be back in a press conference setting so soon. He was the Game 1 starter in a marquee matchup against the Yankees and left-hander CC Sabathia until rain suspended the game after the top of the second inning on Friday night. When it resumed on Saturday, Doug Fister was on the mound.
Now, the big marquee matchup is slated for Game 3 at Comerica Park, which could be Verlander's only appearance of the best-of-five series. Originally, Tigers manager Jim Leyland had Verlander lined up to start Game 1 and Game 5, if necessary, Thursday night back at Yankee Stadium.
That won't happen now. Fister, who lost Game 1, 9-3, is slated for that start, and on Sunday, Leyland wouldn't even commit to using Verlander in relief if the series is on the line in Game 5.
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
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
"Well, I think you just have to play that one by ear," Leyland said. "You certainly wouldn't take any chances. You mean in a relief situation or something? I guess that's a possibility. I probably would rather not do that. In a Game 5 you'd probably do just about anything, but not at the expense of hurting any pitcher, let alone one like that."
Verlander didn't act surprised when told the reaction of his manager. He'd already offered up his services to start Sunday's Game 2 instead of Max Scherzer. Verlander threw 25 pitches on Friday, walked two, allowed a run and threw a wild pitch on a strikeout that let Derek Jeter reach first base.
Asked how that conversation with his manager went, Verlander said: "It went along the lines of, 'Hey, Skip, I can go on Sunday.' He said, 'No, you're going on Monday.' I said, 'OK.'"
Verlander said he didn't see much sense in discussing the Game 5 matter with Leyland, either.
"I might not say anything," he said. "Maybe I'll just go down to the bullpen. I know he won't let me. I've tried too many times before. He always says, 'No,' and gets mad at me. If I go down there and if he sees me warming up, maybe he'll think differently."
First, of course, there's the matter of getting that far.
During the regular season, Verlander was 0-0 with a 4.50 ERA in his two starts against the Yankees. He opened the season against Sabathia on March 31 at New York and neither earned a decision as the Yankees won, 6-3. Verlander started against the Yankees and Bartolo Colon on May 2 at Detroit in a game the Yankees also won.
Including Friday night's short start, during Sabathia's tenures with the Indians and Yankees since 2006, the two have faced off nine times and Verlander has won four of them.
Monday's game will mark the seventh time the pair has started against each other since Sabathia signed with the Yankees as a free agent prior to the 2009 season. Verlander is 2-2.
Sabathia, 19-8 this season with a 3.00 ERA, said his battles against Verlander have always been good ones. But this one should be special in a pivotal playoff game in Detroit's Comerica Park.
"It's a big park and they have a good lineup and some big hitters," Sabathia said. "I don't change my approach park to park."
Sabathia threw 27 pitches on Friday night, striking out four in his two innings of work. The only blemish was a two-out homer by Delmon Young in the first inning. Sabathia said he was disappointed that rain shortened the game.
"I would have liked to have pitched it because of the build up and everything," said Sabathia, who like Verlander may be limited to this one full start in the first round. "This is the best place to play baseball. It's the Bronx. It's the Yankees, with all the history and tradition. It's unbelievable especially around this time of year."
And taking it back to the Motor City?
"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 [with the weather] and all the news that encompasses me and CC facing off again. Either way you look at it, it's going to be a swing game. Either way it's going to be an exciting game."