It's been two seasons since these aces faced each other, and they'll be in the spotlight Sunday when the Detroit Tigers try to post their first three-game home sweep of the sputtering New York Yankees in 13 years.
Detroit (3-2) swept New York (1-4) in last year's ALCS. Verlander (1-0, 0.00 ERA) took a shutout into the ninth inning of a 2-1 victory in Game 3 while Sabathia (0-1, 7.20) failed to keep the Yankees' season alive two days later as he was tagged for six runs over 3 2-3 innings in an 8-1 defeat in Game 4.
The last time these former Cy Young Award winners met was in Game 3 of a 2011 division series. Verlander struck out 11 and allowed four runs over eight innings to gain credit for a 5-4 victory, as Sabathia gave up four runs over 5 1-3 innings and did not take the loss.
These starters have met nine times in the regular season, with Sabathia's teams winning five times. However, he's 4-4 with a 5.01 ERA in those games with 45 strikeouts over 59 1-3 innings while Verlander is 4-3 with a 3.20 ERA and 58 strikeouts over 56 1-3.
Verlander struck out seven over five scoreless innings in a 4-2 victory Monday at Minnesota while Sabathia lasted five and gave up five runs the same day in an 8-2 home defeat to Boston.
The injury-plagued Yankees have not opened 1-5 since a 1-7 start in 1989. They haven't been swept in Detroit since their first visit to Comerica Park from May 12-14, 2000.
"It's just a rough start,'' manager Joe Girardi said. "We've got to get it turned around."
It won't be easy for New York's patchwork lineup against Verlander, who has limited Robinson Cano to a .171 average including the postseason. Cano is off to a slow start, going 2 for 18.
Vernon Wells, however, is 8 for 23 against Verlander and Ichiro Suzuki is a .328 hitter versus the right-hander.
"If we don't want to get swept, we've got to beat the best," Wells told the Yankees' official website. "I think everybody in this clubhouse is looking forward to that challenge, and you know what you're going to get from him."
Reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera is a career .355 hitter against Sabathia including the playoffs, and went 4 for 4 in Saturday's 8-4 victory.
"We swung the bats pretty good throughout the lineup and that's a good thing to see,'' manager Jim Leyland said.
Leyland plans to use a lineup Sunday with switch-hitters Santiago and catcher Brayan Pena along with right-handed hitting Matt Tuiasosopo against the left-handed Sabathia. Tuiasosopo and Pena will get their first starts while Santiago will make his first start at shortstop for Jhonny Peralta.
Only one Yankees starter has lasted longer than five innings. That has exposed a bullpen that has been forced to log 20 innings and is among the worst in the majors with a 7.65 ERA.